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Demand for octopus is on the rise in many countries. This is partly due to shifting taste preferences, particularly among younger and typically more adventurous consumers, as well as a rising understanding of the health benefits of seafood. Market research firm Renub Research, also cites the increasing interest in Spanish tapas which uses the meat as an ingredient.
But when Spanish company Nueva Pescanova announced its plans to raise and slaughter up to a million octopuses each year in its octopus farm in the Canary Islands this year, it was slammed with criticism, with one petition to ban such farming practices garnering over 965,000 signatures.
An estimated 350,000 metric tons of octopus are caught in the wild each year. This is more than 10 fold the number caught in 1950 and is ultimately unsustainable, with reports of supply having already dwindled in some of the biggest producing countries. With such high demand, companies are looking to rear octopuses in a controlled environment. However, researchers found in 2019 that an increase in aquaculture does not necessarily actually reduce overfishing in the wild, but simply works to increase the market size as it becomes more readily available. And so the new Spanish farm has stoked fears that it will be the first in a stream of such facilities.
The following Statista chart provides a snapshot of global octopus trade using the OEC’s latest available data, highlighting the five major importers and exporters of live, fresh or chilled octopus. In 2021, China, a mass producer of octopus, accounted for 54.7 percent of all global exports (with an annual turnover of $123 million). It was followed by Spain which made up 14.1 percent of global exports ($31.8 million), France with 12.1 percent ($27.4 million), Portugal with 8 percent (18.2 million) and Thailand with 2.1 percent ($4.8 million). These countries not only export octopus but are also large consumers of the animal.
When looking at imports, South Korea was by far the biggest importer in 2021, accounting for 56.5 percent of total imports ($128 million). It was followed by predominantly European countries with Spain accounting for 15.4 percent ($34.7 million), Italy with 15.3 percent (34.6 million), Portugal with 3.44 percent (7.8 million) and France with 2.2 percent ($4.9 million). The total world trade of octopus in 2021 was estimated at $226 million.

This chart shows the top importers and exporters of octopus in 2021.
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