Octopus, Lesser

Eledone cirrhosa

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

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 to the sea 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. In addition to the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris), the lesser octopus (Eledone cirrhosa) is also found in the North East Atlantic and Mediterranean. It is the more common species around the UK. As with most cephalopods, growth rates and life span are generally short, 1-5 years, although there may be some variation between areas. The lesser octopus probably matures around 1 year (12-40cm for females, slightly smaller for males) and appears less fecund than the common octopus, perhaps 1,000-5,000 eggs. Octopus are solitary animals, generally inhabiting depths less than 100m, and more common in shallow water. Lesser octopus are a red-brown colour when alive, and erectile tissue in the skin enables them to form distinct peaks over the body, hence the name horned octopus. They have a single row of suckers on each of their arms, which when at rest are curled around the body, providing their third common name of curled octopus.

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, including any minimum landing size/weight


Capture Information

Taken as bycatch in trawl fisheries for other species, they are also captured in earthenware pots in the Mediterranean, although they are a less important catch than the common octopus. ICES catch data for both lesser and common octopus species, from all ICES regions (N E Atlantic) in 2006, indicated around 8,999t, but recent estimates indicate a substantial increase to around 18,630t in 2008 (ICES WGCEPH, 2010). More than 95% of landings within these regions are taken by Portugal and Spain, with Spain taking the vast majority, although as indicated the majority are likely to be O vulgaris.