Satiating Our Appetite with Intelligent Beings - The Octopus


Octopus have got my little family in a whirl. I am normally the one who gets in a tizzy about the injustices and inconsistencies with the way society and people treat animals, but the topic of the octopus, was fittingly brought up by my husband. He was visiting a work colleague who had recently accidentally caught an octopus in a lobster trap and now has him locked in a small aquarium in his office. My husband asks dozens of questions when something gets his attention - it can feel like an inquisition - but he finds out all sorts of interesting things. In this case he got confirmed what he already knew; that octopus' are extremely intelligent creatures. This guy has to keep something heavy on top of the aquarium because his friend, has an octopus in a tank, who would open the lid each night, climb out, go to another tank on the other side of the room, steal a fish from it and then go back to its own tank each night.

Now, I realise that many people won't blink an eyelid about keeping an octopus in a personal aquarium, nor about killing them, boiling them and eating them - or disgustingly eating them alive, which is a new "trend". But I wonder if people have considered the deprivation caused by keeping a living, intelligent being confined, or the waste in taking its life. From the worlds strong and negative reaction to the cruelty that Blackfish exposed about keeping orcas in captivity, I have a strong inclination that the same would happen with our treatment of octopus if people only knew.

Octopus have 10, 000 more genes than humans, have been around since dinosaurs, can recognise symbols, open screw top lids and child-proof bottles, have the amazing ability to change shape and colour, to magically masquerade themselves to avoid capture or predators, (showing  a strong desire to live and be free), the mothers will not leave their eggs for anything, (not even to eat), and they have scientifically proven, long-term memories.

They are so intelligent they are capable of feeling bored (as I am sure the huge majority of animals are in captivity!) but the interesting thing about the octopus is that due to boredom, they have been known to climb out of a tank and deliberately not get back in - sadly committing suicide. Read more stories of octopus' escapes and tricky happenings here. 

Most of an octopus’s neurons are in the animal’s arms, and studies have shown that even after octopuses are cut up or euthanized, their arms still react to stimuli around them.

Check out these short clips below and be in awe, as we were!

About 2.5 million tons of cephalopods are harvested each year, half of these are octopus, and the majority of them caught are as by-catch of trawl, dredge and pot, and net fisheries. When they are imported from Asia they are caught using trawl fishing gear. Studies have identified that trawling for octopus and squid has damaged large areas of coral reef habitat in parts of Southeast Asia and has been identified as a key threat to a number of different species of vulnerable marine wildlife, including dugongs and turtles. If you are still going to eat these wonderful beings, at least buy local "pot caught" to abvoid the environmental destruction.

The number of  octopus they are taking is high, because they are in demand, and fast-growing in their short lives, but despite this "abundant" perception, overfishing in areas such as the EU, Morocco and Japan, still caused significant population drops and "low stock" and a visual drop in average size. In response, controls have had to be put in place to try and help reestablish populations. I think this is important to note, because often it is the case that we believe we can "take what we want" because there are "plenty," only to find years later that...oops...we were wrong, and it can be too late.

Remember this when you eat a living creature from the ocean.

Fisheries are looking into octopus aquaculture - fish farms, but still have some problems to overcome with the complication of raising the fascinating young. I am not a supporter of fish farms due to numerous reasons, such as confinement, overcrowding, and the amount of by-catch you need to feed farmed fish that doesn't equate environmentally. Check out this link for a small insight to what it would be like for an octopus in a farm.

I am interested to know if after learning about these creatures amazing capacity, if someone who normally eats them, would now consider eating octopus a delicacy or a cruelty?

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