What is an octopus?
The Octopus is an eight-armed, soft bodied marine mollusc and is found in oceans all over the world. It is a member of the Cephalopod family that includes squid and cuttlefish. The name is derived from the Ancient Greek for 'eight' and 'foot' and the plural form is 'octopuses'.
Is octopus sustainable to eat?
Octopus carrying the blue MSC label is certified as sustainable. MSC labelled octopus comes from a fishery that has been independently assessed and certified to the MSC Fisheries Standard.
The MSC Chain of Custody Standard makes sure that seafood sold with the blue MSC label comes from fisheries that are MSC certified as fishing sustainably. Every business in the supply chain must prove seafood is purchased from an MSC certified supplier, and record where it has been sold to.
Currently there are two certified octopus fisheries in the MSC program: The world’s first octopus fishery to be certified as sustainable to the MSC Standard is the Western Asturias Octopus Fishery in Spain, and the second is the Western Australia Octopus Fishery. Consumers can feel assured that by choosing octopus products with the blue MSC label they are making a sustainable choice.
Why is there so little sustainable octopus available?
There are some challenges related to the available scientific information for octopus fisheries. To ensure a fishery can meet the MSC Standard, it must provide evidence it is targeting a healthy stock. To do this, fisheries must establish how big the stock is (the abundance) which often requires a stock assessment.
Octopus are short-lived species which means traditional stock assessments can be difficult to complete - it can be difficult to know how many octopuses are in the water.
Without stock assessments it is hard to set well-defined harvest control rules that enable a fishery to respond to fluctuations in stock levels and prevent overfishing.
The Western Asturias octopus story
How a wild octopus fishery located in an autonomous community in northern Spain became the first MSC certified fishery of its kind.