"The sterile boardroom, much of it taken up by a lengthy white table, is at the
heart of the sprawling building in northern Spain. The corporate chatter that
fills this room these days, however, is dominated by the scene playing out one
floor below, where about 50 adult male octopuses are in a tank the size of a
budget hotel room.
A handful of the octopuses – the fifth generation to be born in this Spanish
multinational’s concrete-and-glass office and research centre – skim through
the shallow waters, some brushing up against each other while others tuck into
the tank’s barren corners. A low-intensity light casts a pale glow as
researchers lay the groundwork for one of the world’s most controversial
endeavours: the first commercial octopus farm.
“From a scientific point of view, this project is a global milestone,” says
Roberto Romero Pérez, a marine biologist who oversees aquaculture at Grupo
Nueva Pescanova. “The truth is that we’re finding the mood to be a bit more
hostile than expected.”
The company’s vision for a farm that could eventually provide up to 3,000 tons
of octopus meat a year – requiring the slaughter of about 1 million Octopus
– came into public view in 2021 when it applied for permits. The
planned farm has since become an international flashpoint, pitting the company
and other proponents of octopus farming against those who argue that the
solitary, intelligent animals are ill-suited to being farmed.
From Mumbai to Mexico City, protesters have mobilised, adding their voice to
the more than 100 academics who contend that farming a carnivorous animal
known to be curious, affectionate and exploratory would be unethical and
environmentally unsustainable. Others have sought to crackdown on the sector
before it gets started; lawmakers in the US state of Washington are mulling a
ban on octopus farming while an online petition calling for a global ban has
received nearly 1m signatures.
At the heart of the debate is the question of whether octopuses should be
subject to the long-documented mistakes seen in the factory farming of animals
such as pigs, says Jennifer Jacquet, a visiting professor of environmental
science and policy at the University of Miami."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics