Octopus

(Octopus magnificus, Octopus vulgaris)

Octopus, Sea cat, Seekat

1. What is it?

Octopus (Octopus magnificus and Octopus vulgaris) are fast growing molluscs found in coral reefs, open waters and even on the sea floor. This species is considered to be highly intelligent and feeds on a variety of crustaceans, molluscs and worms. Octopus are considered data deficient as very little is known about their abundance. Biologically, however, this species appears to have a low vulnerability and the latest reports are starting to support this fact.

2. How was it caught or farmed?

Octopus are caught as bycatch within the within the offshore demersal trawl industry for hake (MSC certified) using trawl nets that are dragged along the seabed at depths typically ranging from 110 m to 800 m (known as “demersal trawl nets”). This type of trawling is known to damage the seabed; the extent and impact of damage remains unknown. Trawling is not a very selective fishing method and a number of other species are often caught in the nets (fish, sharks and rays). Seabird interactions with trawl cables near the surface are also a major concern. A success story in the fishery has been the implementation of effective seabird mitigation strategies developed in connection with the MSC-certification process. These strategies have resulted in a dramatic reduction in seabird-fishery interactions through the introduction of tori lines (lines covered in coloured streamers making trawl attachment lines more visible to birds) and improved disposal of offal (discards that attract seabirds).

3. Where is it from?

Octopus are caught as bycatch on the continental shelf edge and upper slope along the West Coast from the Namibian border southwards and on the South Coast primarily around the Agulhas Bank. Management is mainly focused on the target species (hake) in the form of Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and permit limitations. There are some ecosystem-based management measures in place such as precautionary catch limits on monkfish and kingklip, tori lines to reduce sea bird interactions, and limited fishing areas (i.e. fishing within a “footprint” to limit seabed disturbance). Research is underway to better understand impacts to seabed habitats. There is however, little information on impacts to sensitive shark, skate and ray populations.