Octopus, Common

Octopus vulgaris

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Beam trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — All areas
Stock detail
Picture of Octopus, Common

Sustainability rating rating under review info

Sustainability overview

Octopus are not a target species, as their solitary lifestyle limits efficient fishing, but due to their value they are often retained from trawl bycatch when demersal fish are targeted. Towed fishing gear, particularly beam trawling, is often associated with substantial damage to seabed flora and fauna and with non-target bycatch and the discarding of juvenile fish. Octopus will generally survive trawling and may be returned alive, although bird predation on the surface may limit survival.


Octopus belong to a specialised group of molluscs, known as cephalopods, which includes cuttlefish and squid. Like all cephalopods, octopus grow rapidly, although growth rates and longevity appear highly variable and environmentally determined. For the common octopus, (Octopus vulgaris), which is distributed from western Europe to Africa, Japan and the Caribbean, biological parameters are not constant. Life span may be from as little as 12 months in the eastern Mediterranean, to 5 years in some parts of its range. Consequently, age or size at maturity, and the implications for fishery regulation of this species, should probably be locally specific. In general, common octopus are probably 8 months -2 years old when sexually mature, weighing around 500g-1.5kg (females) and slightly less for males. Octopus are solitary animals, generally inhabiting depths less than 100m, and more common in shallow water. Females lay eggs and guard them, usually dying after the eggs hatch. Egg production is relatively high at 100-500,000 eggs. Males are also thought to die shortly after reproduction. Common octopus may be identified by a double row of suckers on each arm.

Stock information

Stock Area

All areas

Stock information

No assessment of stocks by ICES in North East Atlantic. It is a non-pressure or unprotected species, i.e. not subject to quota restrictions. There is no assessment of stocks by ICES and no fishery management is in place, except an EU minimum landing weight of 750g.


Capture Information

FAO estimates for fishery production for this species were around 50,000 tonnes in 2001, with significant fisheries off Japan and West Africa. More recent estimates for all ICES regions (N E Atlantic) indicate around 18,630t for combined O.vulgaris and E. cirrhosa in 2006 (ICES WGCEPH, 2010). More than 95% of landings within these regions are taken by Portugal and Spain, with Spain taking the vast majority. It is mostly taken as bycatch in trawl fisheries for other species. The minimum landing weight for octopus in EU waters is 750g. In the Mediterranean, octopus are also captured in earthenware pots, which they enter instinctively in order to hide.