Sector Definition

The octopus sector comprises all octopus species (families Octopodidae, Eledonidae). Octopuses are mostly traded frozen; only small volumes are traded fresh/prepared or preserved.

At a global scale, the majority of octopus production is from artisanal fishing spread out across large areas and involving many vessels, fishers, and low-impact fishing gears. 

T75

The T75 sector report for octopus details the state of the sector in 2017. Until 2019, little progress had been made on octopus fishery improvement efforts (only 0.01 percent of global production is sustainable: Western Asturias Octopus Traps Fishery of Artisanal Cofradias), and efforts to engage the international supply chain were just beginning.

In 2019, a new fishery achieved MSC certification, the Western Australia Octopus Fishery, and a few small-volume FIPs were publicly launched on Fisheryprogress.org.

Based on 2014 production data, 12,800 tonnes, or 3 percent of global production, are considered sustainable or improving, using publicly available information on MSC status and FIP progress ratings reviewed in August 2019. That already includes FIP not yet rated for progress.

Existing supply chain leverage and interest within the SR may be able to add 23 percent of global production into the improving category in 2020.

Please find an overview of production considered in our T75 strategy for the sector here.

The Global Octopus Supply Chain Roundtable works to catalyze improvements in octopus fisheries around the world. Current SR participants have expressed interest in FIPs in Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, and Senegal. The southern European industry is essential to mobilize EU production and could play a critical role in triggering improvements in other areas of influence, due to its global relevance as an importer, processor, and re-exporter of octopus products. 

However, Target 75 can only be achieved by adding Chinese and Vietnamese production. This will require expanding engagement with domestic Chinese and Vietnamese supply chains, and engaging South Korean and Japanese importers. This approach could also add Japan and South Korea’s own production, an additional 12.5 percent of world production. 

Sustainability concerns in this sector:

Octopuses can be a difficult resource to manage, due to their biological characteristics (e.g., high natural mortality, sensitivity to environmental conditions). Typical management measures such as seasonal closures and minimum size limit may not be adequate for sustainable use of some species of this group. 

Establishing management for octopus fisheries will be difficult in regions where open access fishing prevails and/or enforcement is weak. The artisanal and geographically distributed nature of the fisheries requires a co-management approach, which in many countries will require investments in basic fisheries management such as initiation of data gathering, capacity building, monitoring, assessments, formal identification, and licensing of fishers. 

Finally, there is a relevant volume of octopus caught as bycatch in bottom trawling fisheries known to have significant environmental impacts. 

Trade

FAO reports total global production of more than 422,000 tonnes of octopus. The top producing countries are China, Vietnam, Morocco, Mexico, Japan, Mauritania, South Korea, and the EU. The bulk of exports from the top two producers (China and Vietnam) go to South Korea (International Trade Center, 2014), though we believe significant amounts of production remain in the domestic market in each of those countries as well.

Of the 372,000 tonnes in traded volume in 2014 (ITC, 2014), the EU imported 39 percent, South Korea 30 percent, Japan 18 percent, and the US 6 percent of total imports. Approximately 25 percent of global production is destined for markets engaged in sustainability. As such, the current focus is on their main sources.

Related Resources

T75 sector report for octopus

GET IN TOUCH