Octopus has a huge commercial market, both globally and in my native Spain, so I was encouraged by the turnout and work done at a workshop SFP presented earlier this month focusing on a new octopus fishery improvement project (FIP) in Mauritania.

While work has been underway on a FIP for Mauritanian octopus for some time, the workshop on 17 and 18 January in Las Palmas, Spain, helped to solidify efforts and bring us much closer to a formal project. Right now, the Société Mauritanienne de Commercialisation de la Pêche (SMCP) and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have taken the crucial first steps by using eco-labeling to promote sustainable octopus fishing.

This work began back in 2015, but it has not been publicly promoted and doesn’t have the recognition and support from the market that I think it deserves. The workshop brought together more than 50 national and international experts representing Mauritanian organizations, government, FAO, NGOs, fisheries research and industry. In other words, it was the perfect opportunity to present the project, better understand the status of the eco-labeling process, and connect parties having the same interests.

Most of the participants seemed excited about the workshop. The Mauritanian delegation side, which included the Ministère de la Pêche et l’Economie Maritime (MPEM), SMCP, and industry organizations together with the FAO, recognized the opportunities to collaborate and they had a very enthusiastic attitude. I also saw a lot of interest from the international companies. For example, Sea Delight Fund supported the FIP from the very beginning and funded the workshop. Buyers from Spain and Japan attended, showing their interest. Other buyers couldn’t attend but are aware of the FIP and understand its value.

Some seemed a bit skeptical about the FIP, however, probably because it’s the first time they’ve ever heard about a FIP and because Mauritania is just starting with sustainability. Nevertheless, I believe this is the perfect framework and a great opportunity, so if industry is really demanding sustainable octopus, sooner or later we will see a great deal of support.

The workshop, ultimately, was an intermediate step. We drafted a memorandum of understanding, which we’re expecting the workshop’s participants to sign shortly, and of course we need to formalize an action plan for the FIP and make it public on the Fishery Progress website before declaring the FIP officially “launched,” but if the attitudes I saw at the workshop are any indication, we’re well on our way, and I expect we’ll be sharing more news about this exciting project very soon!