Octopus


Latin name: Various species


Common names: Common Octopus, Trawl Octopus, Hammer octopus

  • Say No

Wild Caught

Region:
NSW

Note: Choose pot caught New South Wales octopus if possible (or octopus from WA, TAS or VIC), as these are a more sustainable choice with much lower impacts on overfished or protected bycatch species, and seafloor habitats than octopus caught in trawl fisheries. Pot caught octopus from NSW is ranked amber 'eat less' but is only a minor proportion of the wider NSW catch and may be difficult to find. Octopus caught with much lower environmental impact is available from other states.

Key Facts

  • Octopus are caught as byproduct in NSW fisheries targeting prawns and fish using demersal otter trawls, gillnets, haul seines and rock lobster pot fishing methods.
  • No stock assessments are available and there are no management controls for regulating the octopus catch are in place. However, octopus generally grow and reproduce quickly, and populations are resilient to fishing pressure. Multiple species are caught, but catches are not recorded to species level.
  • Octopus caught in trawl fisheries generally involves a much higher level of environmental impact on bycatch species and seafloor habitats than in fisheries found in other states that use pot and trap fishing methods.
  • Choose pot caught New South Wales octopus if possible, as these are a more sustainable amber-listed choice with much lower impacts on overfished or protected bycatch species, and seafloor habitats than octopus caught in trawl fisheries.

More information

  • NSW Ocean Trawl Fishery, Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery, Estuary General Fishery, Lobster Fishery (195t in 2016-17)

In New South Wales, around 90% of octopus catch comes primarily as retained bycatch in trawl fisheries targeting prawns and fish. They are also caught in pot fisheries targeting rock lobsters in NSW. Pot fishing methods pose significantly lower risk to seabed habitats and have much lower levels of bycatch compared to bottom trawling. There is little information available to assess the habitat and bycatch impacts of any of these fisheries, but it is notable that trawl-caught octopus comes from fisheries that have a significantly higher level of bycatch and seafloor habitat disturbance.

Catches have declined significantly from the historical peaks of 400t-800t in the 1990s. It is not clear why this has happened but it may be related to reductions in prawn trawling efforts over this period.

There is little information available to assess the habitat and bycatch impacts of any of these fisheries, but it is notable that trawl-caught octopus comes from fisheries that have a significantly higher level of bycatch and seafloor habitat disturbance.

Protected species interactions occur in NSW trawl fisheries. Interaction reports from the NSW fishery indicate that seahorses, pipefish, sharks and rays are commonly caught. Lobster pot fisheries that retain octopus have much lower levels of protected or endangered species bycatch.

In reporting provided by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in 2021 as part of the accreditation to export overseas, no threatened and endangered species bycatch was reported for two of the five most recent fishing years in the NSW trawl fishery.This reporting is considered an unlikely reflection of the fishery’s real impacts.

At the time of writing, a research observer program had been completed based on data from 2017-19, but this data has not been published so it is not possible to understand the impact of the trawl fishery.

Marine parks in NSW provide the most effective science based protection from the significant ecological risks posed by trawling, but alarmingly, at the time of writing, the NSW Government was considering opening highly protected marine parks to fishing.