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

  • Better Choice

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.

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.

  • Better Choice

Wild Caught

Region:
TAS

Key Facts

  • In Tasmania, Octopus is caught using unbaited pots. Some catch is also taken as bycatch in pot fisheries targeting rock lobsters, and a very small quantity is collected by hand.
  • 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. Tasmanian fisheries target the pale octopus, with smaller catches of maori octopus and common octopus.
  • The Tasmanian octopus fishery is considered in a healthy condition, though there are some concerns that localised depletion could occur.
  • 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

  • Tasmanian Octopus Fishery, Tasmanian Rock Lobster Fishery, Tasmanian Scalefish Fishery (119t in 2016-17)

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.

While Australian octopus fisheries are generally poorly understood, with little information on the species caught or structure of octopus populations, Tasmanian octopus fisheries primarily catch pale octopus, with smaller catches of maori and common octopus.

The Tasmanian pale octopus fishery appears healthy, but there are some concerns that localised depletion is occurring in key areas. This will require careful future monitoring, though managers have recommended actions to better control fishing, which is welcome. The Western Australian and Tasmanian fisheries are the only Australian octopus fisheries to have comprehensive science based fishery assessment programs in place. The Tasmanian fishery’s management is relatively rudimentary, but is supported by annual fishery surveys.

  • Better Choice

Wild Caught

Region:
VIC

Key Facts

  • In Victoria, Octopus is caught in a new developmental fishery using unbaited pots, but traditionally the catch has also taken as bycatch in pot fisheries targeting rock lobsters, and to a lesser extent 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. Victorian fisheries target the pale octopus, though may catch several species.
  • There are currently no explicit management measures in place to control octopus catch, though management plans are expected to be in place for the target Victorian Octopus Fishery in 2020, which is welcome.
  • Octopus pot and trap fisheries are highly targeted, have very low impacts on seafloor habitats, and fishing poses a low risk to protected species.
  • 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.

More information

  • Victorian Octopus Fishery, Victorian Rock Lobster Fishery (catch not disclosed)

In Victoria, octopus is targeted in a developmental fishery 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 and in haul seine nets. 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. There is little information on the octopus catch in the Victorian Octopus Fishery which targets octopus and there are currently no explicit management controls for octopus catch in Victorian fisheries. A formal management plan is expected to be in place in the target Octopus fishery in 2020, which is welcome and may lead to improvement in the rating of this fishery.

While there is little information available to assess the health of Victorian octopus stocks, the small scale of current fishing mitigates the risk caused by this uncertainty.

Because pot and haul seine fishing methods pose lower risk to bycatch and habitats, consumers should choose Victorian octopus caught from these fisheries if possible.

  • Eat Less

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.

  • Say No

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.

  • Say No

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.