Aquaculture for all

Close to one million reject octopus farming project

Welfare Octopus +3 more

An online petition – led by the social mobilisation network Avaaz – has garnered nearly one million signatures opposing the establishment of the first industrial octopus farm by the Spanish company Nueva Pescanova in the Canary Islands.

Octopus underwater

A key publication has revealed the presence of bacterial infections in Octopus vulgaris – the species of octopus that would be farmed ­­– that can infect humans © Shutterstock

According to the Aquatic Life Institute (ALI), despite public opposition and numerous warnings from the scientific community, Nueva Pescanova continues to disregard the risks posed by the facility to the health of the local community and the environment.

A study commissioned by Avaaz from the ALI reiterates the seriousness of the risks associated with the project. The octopus farm is being planned on 61,972 m2 of land in La Esfinge basin, within the port of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain. According to the report, octopuses are susceptible to bacterial skin infections, with the potential for transmission to humans. Furthermore, it states that serious environmental and economic problems can occur without appropriate management of the large amount of waste generated by processing industries.

Antibiotics and community health

The ALI recently discovered a key publication, the 234-page Handbook of Pathogens and Diseases in Cephalopods, created in partnership with the European Commission, which illustrates the presence of bacterial infections in Octopus vulgaris – the species of octopus that would be farmed ­­– that can infect humans and cause severe gastroenteritis, septicemia, and even death.

Despite Nueva Pescanova's claims to avoid antibiotic use, according to the ALI the inevitability of disease outbreaks in octopus farming makes antibiotic reliance highly likely. Such overuse of antibiotics can further exacerbate the global issue of antibiotic resistance, which has already caused millions of deaths worldwide.

Community risks

According to the ALI, the exploitation of octopus leads to a corresponding growth in processing industries and the subsequent generation of large amounts of waste, demanding considerable disposal costs. The report alerts that serious environmental and economic problems can occur without appropriate management.

Given its proximity to the sea, the ALI believe the octopus farm could have detrimental effects on local aquatic species due to contaminants and pollutants transferred through discharge. Furthermore, they feel escapes from the farm pose a further risk of the spread of disease, pathogens, and chemicals if farmed and wild aquatic animal interactions occur. The ALI also believe local communities and their economies may suffer as a result of the farm's operations, whether through contamination or changes in the marine ecosystem that small-scale fishermen rely on. According to the ALI, impacts on the surrounding communities and their economies as a result of this influx of various wastes and potential contamination events were never considered but could have harmful implications for neighboring populations.

Call for action

In a press release, the ALI state that since the inception of the project, scientists have consistently highlighted their concerns regarding octopus farming, all of which are related to the fact that these animals, like many others exploited within the food system, are not suited in any way, shape, or form for large-scale farming. According to the ALI, Nueva Pescanova has completely failed to recognise the variety of diseases that have already been observed for O. vulgaris, and they have failed to incorporate any farm management practices to prevent the next public health crisis for Las Palmas’ communities, even though there are documented risks associated with octopus production.

The ALI are urging immediate action to halt the establishment of the industrial octopus farm by Nueva Pescanova in the Canary Islands. Based on the overwhelming evidence of the risks to public health, the environment, and local economies, the ALI feel it is imperative that authorities and decision-makers recognise the urgency of the situation.

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