Spain: The first world's octopus farm poses a dilemma for aquiculture

The launch in the Canary Islands of the world's first octopus farm, a pioneering project led by Nueva Pescanova, has pitted the company against animal rights activists.


After achieving the historic success of closing the breeding cycle of the octopus (Octupus vulgaris) in captivity, this project will spearhead international aquaculture and make the Canary Islands a world exporter of this fishery product.

Pulpo en cautividad

First commercial octopus farm

The farm will be located within the grounds of the Port Authority of Las Palmas, covering 52,691 square meters and will consist of two buildings, a warehouse area and offices. It will directly employ 100 people and another 350 indirectly. It will be able to produce 3,000 tons of octopus per year.

Two prefabricated floors of pressed reinforced concrete in the main building are where the juvenile octopuses are raised to final size. The larvae are fed with seaweed and the octopuses are then fed with feed and crab, in a development process that lasts from 6 to 15 months. After this period, they are placed in tanks where they complete their development until they reach the final point of processing, cleaning, sorting, packaging and freezing.

The farm will based inland, with a pool area for breeding. The tanks will obtain their water directly from the sea, being captured at a depth of 16 meters. With an average consumption of 150,000 cubic hectometers, the company has chosen Las Palmas de Gran Canaria because it has the space to house all the production and the ideal water quality and temperature for this activity.

Puerto de Las Palmas

The octopus will be exported frozen in containers from the quayside, while fresh octopus will be distributed to delicatessen markets from Gran Canaria airport.

The Spanish company to win the race

Nueva Pescanova expects to have the plant operational in 2023. The Galician company will seek European funds and foresees an investment of 45 million euros. It is currently awaiting the environmental impact report from the Canary Islands government. Government sources say that "if it complies with current regulations, it will get the appropriate permit". It is "a milestone from a scientific point of view" and will be "the first place in the world to cultivate octopuses whose cycle has already closed", the same sources say.

Pulpo en pescadería

The race to discover the secret for breeding the octopus in captivity has been going on for decades and the Spanish multinational appears to have beaten companies in Mexico, Japan and Australia. It has taken twenty years of research to achieve a milestone in science: to close the octopus reproduction cycle in captivity. The company had the scientific support of the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) in Vigo.

For Dr Eduardo Almansa, from IEO, it is necessary to "look for alternatives to the increase in demand for octopus" because otherwise "catches could devastate and overexploit the species". He adds that "there is not enough data to evaluate whether or not the octopus suffers" in captivity, although work is being done on this and in the next few years we could have scientifically based results. For the company, aquaculture is "the possible and necessary solution" endorsed by the FAO because the human population is growing and if we only consume fish taken from the wild, "we would endanger their conservation".

Pescanova Biomarine Center

A “cruel” mega farm

Since some of its details were first revealed, the project has been opposed by animal rights groups around the world. This octopus farm "is no more or less cruel than any other, but it is the first on the planet and raises serious ethical issues," they say.

Pacma (Animal Rights Party Against Animal Abuse) claims that octopuses are animals that "are not protected by law" and with which companies "can do whatever they want without taking into account their needs". This group advocates "the enormous intelligence of this species and considered able to feel pain and emotions".

In November last year, the UK government reported that "crabs, octopuses and lobsters will be recognized as sentient beings in government policy decisions", through an amendment to the Animal Welfare Bill.

Main source: ABC