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Mediterranean: why it is necessary to protect the octopus, a prized but not (yet) endangered species

The fishermen of Occitania impose a period of at least two months of closure without catching the octopus.

Some praise his extraordinary intelligence and his sociability under water. Others remain impressed by its tentacles and color changes. And many lick their chops in advance when they sit down to eat. Octopus does not leave anyone indifferent and it has never been so popular with fishermen because the demand is always increasing. Coming from restaurateurs or manufacturers of tielles, as well as from our Spanish and Italian neighbors who travel hundreds of kilometers to reach the auctions of Occitania.

100 tonnes caught in 2012, 700 tonnes in 2020

“In 2012, 100 tonnes were landed in the French Mediterranean and 700 tonnes in 2020, many professionals started fishing it”illustrates Grégoire Certain from the Marbec-Ifremer unit in Sète (Hérault). The latter precisely coordinated the ObsPoulpe study, in partnership with the regional fisheries committee (CRPMEM) and the Gulf of Lion marine natural park.

“We did not have the signal of a resource in danger, but that of significant pressure on octopus, in great demand but also with many professionals who live off it” says the researcher in fisheries ecology.

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He therefore studied the two capture techniques practiced in Occitania, much less in Paca (except Port-de-Bouc): either with lines of plastic pots – the Romans already used pots but in terracotta – where the octopus comes to curl up and live there, either with the use of traps, metal cages inside which the animal enters without being able to come out.

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Harmonize closures

“Our study shows that a trap catches as much as 10 pots on average” reports Grégoire Certain. Two recommendations flowed from the report. First, favor the pot, which is“cleaner”it avoids accidental captures and during the reproduction period, “they can be left in the water to facilitate it”.

Then and above all, harmonize the closing periods of fishing while at the same time small trades such as certain trawlers take the cephalopod, that is to say a few hundred professionals. Since 2018, a framework from small trades has come to regulate catches.

“Two consecutive months of closure of your choice and 2,500 pots and 400 traps maximum per ship and per year” recalls Thomas Serazin, project manager at the CRPMEM. Some fishermen realize a fairly large percentage of their turnover thanks to this species, which is the first landed in the auctions. “As long as the resource is doing well, it was necessary to take action and not wait for a collapse in stocks and imposed closures”.

A breeding peak in summer

This prevention policy has just been extended to the Gulf of Lion Marine Nature Park, in the POs. On the strength of the ObsPoulpe study, three prud’homies – Leucate, Barcarès and Saint-Cyprien – have just adopted a common closing period from June 15 to September 15, where the maximum presence of grained females has been identified, i.e. the breeding peak.

“It is a priority species on which the park is working because it is very important for the economic health of the fifty or so fishermen in the sector and this closure at the same time was necessary” reacts Lauriane Vasseur, “fishing” project manager at the park.

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While waiting for the other prud’homies which are not there yet, even if some detonate: in Grau-du-Roi (Gard), the traps are prohibited. And on the side of Valras (Hérault), the closing period is downright five months this year:“Du 1is they have 1 moreis October, a good closure so that the resource can reform, it proves that we know how to manage” rejoices Jérôme Carjavalès, the prud’homme.

The profitability ofcommon octopuseasy to fish, thus encourages to protect this animal which adapts to the temperatures but which lives only one year: “In a context of climate change, the stock can go through a difficult period, the versatility of catches for fishermen is common sense, as is harmonization” Grégoire Certain analysis.

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