In Spain, the world’s first octopus breeding project worries environmental and animal activists

Behind a thick black curtain, eleven breeding male octopuses lit by a low-intensity neon bar swim in a vast 25-square-meter pool. Surrounded by conduits that guarantee the right conditions of temperature and water quality, some approach the shore “walking” on their long gray tentacles, meeting the visitors, while others hug the arm on the black bottom of the tank.

It is here, in the basement of the Biomarine Research Center of the Spanish company Nueva Pescanova, located in O Grove, on the banks of the Arousa estuary, the largest estuary in Galicia, in northwest Spain, that experiments have been carried out since 2018, which should lead to the opening of the world’s first commercial octopus farm. “Scientists have been trying to complete the octopus life cycle for decades. Neither Japan nor Korea were successful. As far as we’re concerned, we’re ready, welcomes Roberto Romero, Nueva Pescanova’s director of aquaculture for Spain. The octopus has become one of the most sought after species, especially since the United States began consuming it. It is a superfood, high in protein and low in fat, its market value is high and its growth is fast enough that the prospects for profitability are good. »

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In the basin adjacent to the males, separated by a wall, five reproductive females whirl around PVC tubes that function as refuges, where they prepare to lay their strings loaded with an average of 200,000 to 300,000 microscopic eggs. If everything goes according to the company’s plans, by 2023 an aquaculture farm of 52,000 square meters, capable of producing about 3,000 tons of octopus per year, or one million specimens with an average weight of 3 kg, should start operating. 2 thousand kilometers further south, in the port of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands.

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For animals and conservationists, however, this project is a “ecological nonsense”. driven by impact Oscar-winning documentary The Wisdom of the Octopus, that revealed to the general public the fascinating intelligence of this animal with three hearts and a decentralized neural network, they have mobilized in recent months to denounce its “cruelty”.

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“The octopus is a wild, solitary and territorial animal. Studies carried out so far show that it develops aggressive behavior in groups, reaching cannibalism. It is also a very curious and intelligent animal: the only mollusk capable of using tools, such as the shells it uses to hide and protect itself. And since it doesn’t have a shell, it’s very fragile and can get hurt easily, explains Elena Lara, PhD in biology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​spokesperson for the NGO Compassion in World Farming in Spain and member of the Aquatic Animal Alliance (AAA), a coalition of more than 110 NGOs and scientists from around the world mobilized against the project. We are very concerned about the welfare of this animal in the high density, captive conditions of an intensive farm built for the culinary benefit of a few. »

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