Scientists Are Warning That We Absolutely Must Not Farm Octopuses

Our unethical choices come with a price so we end up destroying our planet at an accelerated rate. The global demand for octopus is on the rise, due to its limited supply.

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations believes the price will remain high for the remainder of 2019.

The yields are unpredictable as an octopus is typically wild-caught, so octopus farms start appearing in numerous countries around the world in the attempt to keep up with the demand.

Yet, Issues in Science and Technology has published an article by a group of environmental scientists, philosophers, and psychiatrists, who warn about the dangers of farming octopus, and its effects on our environment.

They claim that such a move is ethically inexcusable and environmentally dangerous, and have called on private companies, academic institutions and governments to block funding for these ventures.

Octopus is a carnivore that thrives on fish proteins and fatty acids, so researchers claim that this will put additional pressure on wild fish and invertebrates for fishmeal, and currently, around one-third of our global fish catch is turned into feed for animals, and about half of that goes to aquaculture.

The group, led by Professor Jennifer Jacquet of New York University, argues that they cannot find a reason why, in the 21st century, a sophisticated, complex animal should become the source of mass-produced food.

Supplying enough fish and shellfish to feed large numbers of them puts further pressure on the food chain, so it is unsustainable, and the entire octopus factory farming is ethically and ecologically unjustified.

We must consider the environmental impacts of pollution. Namely, wildlife suffers tremendously due to a combination of high nitrogen and phosphorus levels found in feces and food decomposition, the excessive use of antibiotics, the contamination from fertilizers, algaecides, herbicides, and disinfectants, as well as inbreeding and disease transmission between escaped fish and wild varieties.

Octopuses are highly intelligent and have amazing problem-solving skills, but prefer to live alone.

This means that they get bored and frustrated in captive environments with no stimulation, and can show worrisome behaviors, including cannibalism and eating the tips of their own tentacles.

Researchers conclude that the farming of octopus is now constrained by the technology, but with further investments, research, and testing, the technology might become available to farm octopus at an industrial scale.

Peter Godfrey-Smith of Sydney University, a contributor to the paper, says that, fortunately, these farms are still at the development stage.

Yet, when these projects will be supported by universities and research institutions, it will make sense to object, as there is no point in using research money to support a project that will inevitably cause numerous welfare and environmental issues once it is scaled up.

They maintain that our society will recognize the serious welfare and environmental problems linked to such projects and octopus farming will be discouraged or prevented.

They recommend governments, private companies, and academic institutions to stop investing in octopus farming now and focus on achieving a truly sustainable and compassionate future for food production instead.

On the other hand, experimentations with octopus farming in Mexico has reported a breakthrough in the last decade, and in 2017, a Japanese seafood company has reported successfully hatching eggs, so farmed octopus may be available by 2020.

Yet, is it worthwhile when we consider its disastrous consequences?