Okay, what was once considered gross, octopus tentacles are showing up all the time on Americans’ plates! Even though the demand for octopus is on the rise, there are many debates regarding harvesting these highly intelligent creatures known as cephalopods.
Even though a lot of seafood is farmed, the octopus has always been a wild catch because of the challenges of hatching them and raising them in a captured environment. Now that farming has incorporated higher technology, anything is possible.
That said, many scientists are totally against doing this due to ethics. Farming leads to many complications and challenges. Cephalopods have a life span of only one to two years making it very difficult to breed.
They are also highly intelligent and complex creatures. Zoos have witness octopus being able to open a jar for a treat and can squeeze through an opening the size of an eyeball.
Another major issue, if kept in very close quarters, they will become cannibalistic
The meat is showing up in various foods including tapas. In Japan, it’s a great sushi dish while in Korea, the octopus is eaten live while squirming on the plate! (Yuk) Octopus meat is high in vitamins, healthy fats, minerals, and demand is on the rise!
The majority of octopus comes from Asia and half of that from China. Countries such as Korea and Japan eat octopus. Mediterranean countries like Spain, Greece, and Portugal are also hot spots for octopus food.
Chinese and Australian taste buds are on the rise, along with American pallets. The global production has literally doubled since 1980 due to demand but the number caught is decreasing because of over-fishing.
In other words, the population of octopus is declining drastically. This is why farming has become a really hot topic!
As of late, the issue of farming is spreading around the world in countries including Asia, South America, North America, the Mediterranean, and Australia. One farm is predicting they will be totally operational in 2020.
Now the question becomes ethical. Animal rights activists and many scientists have said the practice is cruel and immoral. Octopus are highly intelligent animals that need stimulation and a dynamic environment.
They are literally “shapeshifters” who can disappear in a cloud of ink. They can literally recognize a human face due to their long-term memory. They have as many neurons as mammals and a much larger nervous system than other invertebrates.
There is a group of scientists that are totally against octopus farming and signed an open letter with over 100 scholars arguing raising octopus for food because it’s wrong.
There are several authors including Jennifer Jacquet, Peter Godfrey-Smith, Becca Frans, and Walter Sánchez-Suárez who have protested about that matter.
A sterile, controlled, isolated environment that is uninspiring in farming operations would have a negative effect on the well-being of these intelligent creatures because they seek stimulation and need to have control and be able to manipulate their own environment.
These creatures are very curious, active, and exploratory. In New Zealand, an octopus in captivity would repeatedly short-circuit the bright light shining in his enclosure by squirting water at it all the time.
Life in solitary confinement for such a curious mind is just ethically and blatantly wrong!
As mentioned earlier, outside their basic biological health and safety, an octopus is in need of high levels of cognitive stimulation and need to control their environment. These farm systems are hostile to their animal attributes.
Also, as they are carnivores, they need a fish meal and fish oil in the farming setting which would come from over-fished stock. They also require 3-times their weight in food to sustain themselves.
Even though farming octopus may satisfy the human palate, ecologically it’s inefficient according to scientists.
One-third of caught fish are used to feed other animals and approximately half goes to aquaculture. Many fish meal fisheries have over-fished and are on the decline.
The debate about farming octopus rages on, it raises the question about ethics that spread throughout our social lives. What is acceptable and what is not. It leads to a moral dilemma that many will have to face when it comes to farming.
Let’s face it, most people have no problems farming pigs who are also highly intelligent but eating primates, cats or dogs are scorned upon.
In the long run, cultural norms and our understanding will dictate whether or not octopus should be farmed and whether this practice will start in the United States as well as abroad.