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Demand grows to ban octopus farms in Canada

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Over 11,000 people have signed a petition demanding the Canadian government ban octopus farms from opening in the country.

In February, federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May sponsored a petition from the BC SPCA calling for a ban on the aquacultural practice.

The BC SPCA says there are currently no octopus farms operating in Canada, but with a growing appetite for the delicacy around the world, the worry is that the country's coasts could become hotbeds for farming.

"We're really concerned about these animals' welfare on farms," said Melissa Speirs, the BC SPCA manager of farm animal welfare.

"We would like to see the federal government ban octopus farming in Canada and ban the importation of cephalopod products."

The preventative measures are already being worked on the south of the border.

Washington state lawmakers are working to pass Bill 1153, which would eliminate octopus farming, a decision made after animal rights and environmental groups brought the issue to their attention.

"We don't have a proposed octopus farm coming to Washington state," said Rep. Strom Peterson, Washington District 21 representative. "So this is more of a statement bill: 'Hey, let's take a look at this in Washington state and let's talk to our neighbours to the north and south."

Peterson says the bill didn't make it through the process this year and will be tabled again in January 2024, where he believes it will be supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

Questions revolving around the ethics of octopus farming have been raised by more than politicians. Marine biologists have also warned that the practice could be inhumane.

"There's that ethical concern that they're very intelligent animals that can learn and interact, and then there are animal welfare considerations if you have to have them in close quarters," said Dr. Chris Harley, a marine biologist at UBC.

Harley also says there is limited research on the implications of octopus being mass-produced. He says there isn't a successful history of culturing the animal, which could lead to potential diseases spreading.

He says only a handful of countries are farming octopus, and with octopus popping up on more menus around the globe, companies are looking to get into the business.

"We do know it takes an awful amount of food to produce a kilogram of octopus. Maybe twice as much food as a kilogram of salmon or shrimp," said Harley. "You could probably do it but it's more intensive."

Harley also questions the sustainably of the farm, as octopus feed on fish and other animals which would require the farmer to use additional ocean life to maintain its health.

The petition is open until May 16, when it is then expected to be delivered to the federal government to review. 

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