Octopus


Latin names: Octopus spp., Octopus aff. tetricus, Octopus pallidus, Octopus tetricus, Various species


Common names: Common Octopus, Gloomy Octopus, Pale Octopus, Maori Octopus, Trawl Octopus, Hammer octopus

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Wild Caught

Region:
WA

Key Facts

  • In WA, Octopus is caught in a developmental fishery that uses unbaited traps and pots. Some octopus are also taken as bycatch in pot fisheries targeting rock lobsters.
  • Although there is limited stock status information for the species of octopus caught, octopus generally grow and reproduce quickly, and populations are resilient to fishing pressure. The octopus species primarily caught in WA fisheries has recently been found to be a separate species to common octopus found on Australia’s east coast. Fishers and managers have invested in research to better understand and manage the fishery, which is welcome.
  • The major WA octopus fishery is considered underutilised, and there is good evidence that stocks are healthy. The fishery is being allowed to expand in a careful manner.
  • Octopus pot and trap fisheries are highly targeted, have very low impacts on seafloor habitats, and fishing poses a low risk to protected species.

Cooking & Recipes

BBQ
POACH
BRAISE

You can buy octopus either as smaller ‘baby’ octopus, as larger whole specimens, or as individual legs. While cooking octopus can be complicated, it doesn’t have to be. It is well suited to barbecuing, with a light char and a squeeze of lemon complimenting the robust meat. For incredibly tender results, try braising the octopus first. Slow cooking in a sauce of tomato, wine and herbs will tenderise the meat, making a delicious stew to serve with pasta, polenta, or crusty bread.

More information

  • Western Australian Octopus Interim Managed Fishery, Cockburn Sound Line and Pot Managed Fishery, West Coast Rock Lobster Fishery (256t in 2017)

In WA, octopus is caught using unbaited traps and pots, which are selective methods of fishing that have minimal impacts on seafloor habitats and threatened species. Shelter pots (which are unbaited, attracting octopus by providing habitat) and trigger traps (which use an artificial, crab imitation lure and a trap mechanism) are used, with a small amount of catch retained as byproduct in baited rock lobster pots. These fishing methods pose low risk to seabed habitats and have low levels of bycatch. There are potential risks of whale entanglement, as the fishery operates along a migratory route for humpback whales, but current fishing levels and management settings are highly unlikely to harm whale populations.

While Australian octopus fisheries are generally poorly understood, with little information on the species caught or structure of octopus populations, recent research has determined that the WA octopus fishery targets a new (as yet formally unnamed) species, and not, as previously thought, the ‘common octopus’ Octopus tetricus found on Australia’s east coast. Efforts to better understand the species and its biology from managers are welcome. Fishers have innovated in developing fishing gear that reduces the (already low) risk to habitats and bycatch species.

The WA octopus stock is considered underutilised and developmental, and catch is being allowed to expand in a structured manner. The WA and Tasmanian  fisheries are the only octopus fisheries  to have comprehensive science based fishery assessment programs in place. As such there is robust evidence that the WA octopus stock is healthy.

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Wild Caught

Region:
TAS

Key Facts

  • In Tasmania, Octopus is caught using unbaited pots. Some catch is also taken as byproduct in baited lobster pots targeting southern rock lobster. Some commercial spear fishing, hand gathering and to a lesser extent, gillnetting occurs in Tasmania.
  • Tasmanian octopus fisheries primarily catch pale octopus, with smaller catches of maori and common octopus.
  • The amount of Pale Octopus caught in the most recently reported fishing year (2018/19) was at a record high, and was in breach of a proposed limit by almost 23t. If this level of catch is sustained, it could deplete the stock. There has been some indication of localised depletion particularly in some fishing grounds, although overall, the stock is not yet considered overfished.
  • The vulnerability of the octopus caught is still considered low because they grow and reproduce quickly, making them resilient to fishing pressure.
  • The main methods used to catch octopus in Tasmania are highly targeted, have very low impacts on seafloor habitats, and fishing poses a low risk to protected species.

Cooking & Recipes

BBQ
POACH
BRAISE

You can buy octopus either as smaller ‘baby’ octopus, as larger whole specimens, or as individual legs. While cooking octopus can be complicated, it doesn’t have to be. It is well suited to barbecuing, with a light char and a squeeze of lemon complimenting the robust meat. For incredibly tender results, try braising the octopus first. Slow cooking in a sauce of tomato, wine and herbs will tenderise the meat, making a delicious stew to serve with pasta, polenta, or crusty bread.

More information

  • Tasmanian Octopus Fishery, Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery and the Tasmanian Rock Lobster Fishery (129t in 2018/19).

The Tasmanian  octopus fishery has been given a precautionary amber ranking because of the recent record high catch (it was formerly green), which was well above the long term average for the fishery. If this catch rate is sustained,  stocks could become overfished. There are currently inadequate constraints on the catch in Tasmania. However, this ranking has a strong potential to improve if more robust proposed management arrangements are introduced, including a limit to catches to better control fishing.

In Tasmania, octopus is caught using unbaited traps and pots, which are selective methods of fishing that have minimal impacts on seafloor habitats and threatened species. Shelter pots (which are unbaited, attracting octopus by providing habitat) are used, with a small amount of catch retained as byproduct in baited rock lobster pots. These fishing methods pose low risk to seabed habitats and have low levels of bycatch.

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Wild Caught

Region:
VIC

Key Facts

  • In Victoria, octopus is caught using a number of methods, mostly with ‘shelter trap’ pots, as well as a byproduct in pot fisheries targeting rock lobsters, and to a lesser extent in bottom trawl, gillnet and haul seine net fisheries.
  • Octopus catch has increased very significantly in recent years and there is not yet evidence to demonstrate that the permitted increase in fishing activity will be sustainable into the future. Their rating has been downgraded to amber as a precaution while we await more information.
  • Catch is not reported to the species level but there is currently no indication that serious depletion of any particular species or stock has occurred.
  • Formal management arrangements were established in 2020 and efforts are underway to better understand population structure, introduce species-specific management and understand the biological attributes of the main target species - pale octopus.
  • There are no serious sustainability concerns at present, provided management is reactive and responsive to new information as it becomes available. The vulnerability of the octopus caught is still considered low because they grow and reproduce quickly, making them resilient to fishing pressure.
  • Choose pot or haul seine caught Victorian octopus if possible, as these are a more sustainable choice with much lower impacts on overfished or protected bycatch species, or seafloor habitats.

Cooking & Recipes

BBQ
POACH
BRAISE

You can buy octopus either as smaller ‘baby’ octopus, as larger whole specimens, or as individual legs. While cooking octopus can be complicated, it doesn’t have to be. It is well suited to barbecuing, with a light char and a squeeze of lemon complimenting the robust meat. For incredibly tender results, try braising the octopus first. Slow cooking in a sauce of tomato, wine and herbs will tenderise the meat, making a delicious stew to serve with pasta, polenta, or crusty bread.

More information

  • Victorian Octopus Fishery and Rock Lobster Fishery (89t in 2018/19, 41t in 2017/18)

The pot and trap method used to catch octopus in Victoria is highly targeted, has very low impacts on seafloor habitats, and fishing poses a low risk to protected species.

Formal management arrangements for the Victorian Octopus fishery were established in 2020 and efforts are underway to better understand population structure, introduce species-specific management and understand the biological attributes of the main target species – pale octopus.

There are no serious sustainability concerns at present, provided management is reactive and responsive to new information as it becomes available. The vulnerability of the octopus caught is still considered low because they grow and reproduce quickly, making them resilient to fishing pressure. However, catches have increased very significantly in recent years and there is not yet evidence to demonstrate that the permitted increase in fishing activity will be sustainable into the future.

This ranking has a strong potential to improve if management arrangements are responsive to the findings of the research currently underway by the Victorian government.

Although there are no robust reporting arrangements for bycatch and discards in place, levels of both are expected to be low in most Victorian octopus fisheries due to the nature of the fishing gear used.  Most octopus in Victoria are caught using shelter pots (which are unbaited, attracting octopus by providing habitat), which have no or negligible catch of other species and cause little impact to seafloor habitats. There is a small amount of catch retained as byproduct in baited rock lobster pots and in haul seine nets which also have a more significant level of bycatch and discards. Octopus is also taken in gillnets and bottom trawl fisheries, which can have much higher levels of bycatch and more significant habitat impacts.

Choose pot or haul seine caught Victorian octopus if possible, as these are a more sustainable choice with much lower impacts on overfished or protected bycatch species, or seafloor habitats.

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Wild Caught

Region:
SA

Key Facts

  • In South Australia, octopus is primarily caught as retained bycatch using baited pot methods targeting rock lobsters. They are also caught in a new developmental fishery that targets octopus using unbaited pots, but also in bottom trawl, gillnet and haul seine fisheries.
  • Although there is limited stock status information for the species of octopus caught, 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.
  • There are currently no explicit management measures in place to control octopus catch.
  • Octopus pot and trap fisheries are highly targeted, have very low impacts on seafloor habitats, and fishing poses a low risk to protected species.

More information

  • South Australian Rock Lobster Fisheries, West Coast, Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent Prawn Trawl  Fisheries, Marine Scalefish Fishery (current catch not disclosed but >113t in 2016-17)

In South Australia, octopus catch comes primarily as retained bycatch in pot fisheries targeting rock lobsters. Octopus is also targeted in a new developmental fishery using shelter pots (which are unbaited, attracting octopus by providing habitat). These fishing methods pose low risk to seabed habitats and have low levels of bycatch. Octopus is also taken in gillnets and bottom trawl fisheries, which can have much higher levels of bycatch and more significant habitat impacts. There is little information available to assess the habitat and bycatch impacts of any of these fisheries, however.

Australian octopus fisheries are generally poorly understood, with little information on the species caught or structure of octopus populations. Multiple octopus species are caught including Maori, Pale and Southern Octopus. There is little information on the octopus catch and no explicit management controls for octopus catch in South Australian fisheries.

The lack of information supporting management in SA Octopus fisheries presents some concern as the overall catch is significant. The developmental target fishery uses a very low risk fishing method, and the pot and trawl fisheries in which they are caught as byproduct pose acceptably low risks to habitats, bycatch and protected species.

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Wild Caught

Region:
QLD, NSW

Key Facts

  • In New South Wales and Queensland, octopus is primarily caught as retained bycatch in bottom trawl fisheries targeting prawns and fish.
  • A small amount of octopus is caught in NSW in fisheries using baited pot methods targeting rock lobsters.
  • Although there is limited stock status information for the species of octopus caught, 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.
  • There are currently no explicit management measures in place to control octopus catch.
  • 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 choice with much lower impacts on overfished or protected bycatch species, and seafloor habitats than octopus caught in trawl fisheries.

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.

More information

  • New South Wales Estuary Prawn Trawl Fishery,  Ocean Trawl Fishery, Estuary General Fishery, and the Lobster Fishery (195t in 2016-17)
  • Queensland East Coast Otter Trawl Fishery (current catch not fully disclosed but >20t/yr)

In New South Wales and Queensland, 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.

Australian octopus fisheries are generally poorly understood, with little information on the species caught or structure of octopus populations. Multiple octopus species are caught in QLD and NSW fisheries. There is little identification of the octopus species caught and no explicit management controls for octopus catch in New South Wales or Queensland octopus fisheries.

Trawling impacts on vulnerable marine habitats are reduced in some areas of NSW as fishing activity is banned in sensitive areas, such as seagrass beds. In deeper water fishing grounds, trawl grounds have not been well mapped, and the fishing area includes sensitive marine habitats, such as rocky reefs with associated reef animals (for example, sponges and bryozoans, animals similar to corals).

Trawl fisheries generally catch a high number of species other than those targeted, which can result in a high volume of discarded unwanted catch. Discarded catch is not required to be reported in QLD, which means that there is no information on the impact of this fishery on marine animals that have no commercial value.

Independent fishery observer programs are an important method of verifying protected species interactions, as well as other fishery impacts, such as the type and volume of discarded catch.

Unfortunately the QLD Government closed the observer program for all QLD managed fisheries in 2012. In the intervening eight years, there has been no independent on-vessel monitoring of the impact of this fishery, which is unacceptable for fisheries operating in the ecologically sensitive regions of the Great Barrier Reef. Concerns have been raised regarding under-reporting of endangered species caught in the fishery in logbooks. As there is no record of actual protected species interactions over time, the ecological impacts of this fishery cannot be measured or managed.

Trawl fisheries generally catch a high number of species other than those targeted, which can result in a high volume of discarding of unwanted catch. Discarded catch is not required to be reported in these fisheries, which means that there is no information on the impact of this fishery on marine animals that have no commercial value, but this will be addressed by research observers in the NSW fishery.

Protected species interactions occur in NSW trawl fisheries. Interaction reports from the NSW fishery indicate that seahorses, pipefish, sharks and rays are commonly caught.

Consumers should choose pot-caught octopus from NSW if possible, though this may be difficult to find. Octopus caught with much lower environmental impact is available from other states.

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Wild Caught

Region:
Thailand, China, Vietnam & Malaysia

Key Facts

  • Analysis of fisheries that catch octopus in China and Southeast Asia is complex; octopus from these nations are caught in multiple fisheries, accessing reports is problematic and the quality of management varies across the region. Regional assessments of fisheries indicate that many species, including species of octopus, are overfished.
  • The Chinese distant water fishing fleet has generally under-reported the volume of catch landed and is subject to minimal monitoring and management.
  • Severe habitat impacts as a result of trawl fishing have been identified, particularly on coral reefs.
  • Trawl fishing has been identified as a key threat to vulnerable marine wildlife, including dugongs and turtles.

More information

  • Thailand (~880t in 2014-15)
  • China (~350t in 2014-15)
  • Vietnam (~130t in 2014-15)
  • Malaysia (~120t in 2014-15)

Analysis of fisheries that catch octopus in Chinese and Southeast Asian fisheries is complex, as octopus is caught in a number of different fisheries managed by different countries. These fisheries catch a wide range of species, including species of octopus, squid and finfish. In addition, accessing reports is problematic and the quality of management varies across the region. China also has a large distant water fishing fleet, which means that the vessels fish around the world, not just in waters bordering their country.

Regional assessments of fisheries in Southeast Asia indicates that in general, high fishing pressure on a range of species, including octopus species, in coastal waters has led to declining catches across the region, with many species of octopus now overfished. Whereas fishing effort was previously concentrated in coastal waters, overfishing has pushed fisheries further offshore, transferring fishing pressure to deeper water species. It is not clear from available reports what management actions have been implemented to allow stocks of overfished octopus to recover. Issues of under-reporting of the amount of octopus (and other species) caught in the Chinese fisheries have also been identified, and there is minimal monitoring and management of this fleet.

There is generally weak management to ensure that overfishing is not occurring, as well as a lack of information on the volume of octopus landed in any of these regions.

Octopus is mainly 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. For example, around 80% of corals in Thai waters have been damaged or destroyed as a result of fishing gear impacts, although it is not clear what proportion of this is as a result of trawling for octopus.

In regional assessments of fishing impacts, trawl fishing has been identified as a key threat to a number of different species of vulnerable marine wildlife, including dugongs and turtles. Dugong populations have been decimated to the point of local extinction in some areas, and green, hawksbill and olive ridley turtles are caught in trawl fisheries in Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand. Whilst there have been improvements in fisheries management in recent years, it is not yet clear whether efforts to reduce mortality of threatened species have been successful.