The common octopus is a popular sushi item where it is sold under the Japanese name tako. Due to heavy fishing pressure (current and past), habitat damage caused by the fishing gear, and a lack of fishery management, we recommend consumers "Avoid" octopus from Mauritania, Morocco and Vietnam. Common octopus from Spain is a "Good Alternative."
Common Octopus, Tako
The octopus found in American sushi restaurants is generally the common octopus, Octopus vulgaris . However, it is rare for octopus to be listed by species on menus and, at times, other species are also marketed as common octopus. Another menu offering might be "baby octopus" which could either be a juvenile common octopus or an adult octopus of a smaller species. What is clear is that it can be very difficult to determine what octopus one is eating.
Tako is available year-round and served in a variety of forms including: live, fresh, dried, frozen, cured, salted, and brined.
As its name implies, common octopus is found in numerous oceans. Worldwide, the species and its fisheries suffer from a lack of solid information and little or no fishery management.
Common octopus has a short life span and produces many offspring - characteristics that typically help make a species resilient to fishing pressure. However, there are very little population data for any of the octopus fisheries that contribute to the U.S. sushi market. This is especially true of the fisheries in Vietnam and Mauritania, which are known to be heavily fished.
Most common octopus is caught in bottom trawl fisheries, which have moderate levels of bycatch of non-target species. The overall impact of these fisheries on the ecosystem and habitat is not well understood, but bottom trawling is known to heavily disrupt sensitive seafloor habitats.
Little is known about the overall effectiveness of the developing fishery management programs in Morocco, and management in Mauritania and Vietnam is poor.
However, octopus fisheries in Spain are under better management and the population is stable. Spain's traditional pot fishery, which accounts for just under half of the annual catch, has low bycatch levels, resulting in an overall "Good Alternative" ranking.
Seafood Watch recommends consumers "Avoid" common octopus from Mauritania, Morocco and Vietnam, while common octopus from Spain is a "Good Alternative."