Tentacles In Trouble: Are Octopuses Endangered?

are octopus endangered

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Octopuses are widely known to be some of the most intelligent animals on the planet. With their large brain-to-body ratio, they are about as smart as the average dog.

With around 300 different species ranging from large to small, each one is toxic and uses its parrot-like beak to inject its prey with venom before proceeding to slurp it up like a milkshake. Yuck!

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the octopus population as a whole, and answer a question that often crops up when discussing these highly intelligent cephalopods. Are octopuses endangered?

No, octopuses as a whole are not endangered or threatened by the IUCN Red List. However, just like most marine life, they face a number of threats, including being a popular dish in Asian and Mediterranean cuisines.

Are Octopuses Actually Endangered?

Thankfully octopuses are not currently endangered or threatened, which means their populations are stable and the species is not at threat of extinction.

In fact, according to a study from Current Biology, octopus and squid populations are booming across the world thanks to their ability to exploit environmental changes in the ocean.

Squid, octopus, and cuttlefish live in the “fast lane”, as they grow quickly but typically only live for between 1 and 2 years.

They produce lots of eggs that their mothers guard with their lives and their eggs have relatively low mortality rates thanks to this.

This allows cephalopods, including octopuses to adapt rapidly to changes in the environment which have become even more pronounced in recent years thanks to human activity.

Many species of octopus can lay up to 200,000 thousand eggs at a time, and it only takes two or so octopuses out of each clutch to survive and reproduce to keep an octopus population steady.

Are Octopuses Protected?

Octopuses and other cephalopods have been protected in science for many years, but have not received any protection outside of science until now.

Humans have often disregarded octopuses due to the fact that they are invertebrates, meaning they don’t have a spine.

It has long been thought by many that because of this, octopuses are unable to feel pain and do not have feelings, but science now shows that this is not true.

The United Kingdom has led the way in animal welfare with regard to cephalopods and declared that lobsters, crabs, octopuses, and related species will be included under the Animal Welfare Bill.

This paves the way for legal protection against practices like being boiled alive.

With regards to specific populations of octopuses being protected in the wild, octopuses are now protected in some countries when used in research.

It’s likely that full protection will come in a few years as other countries begin to follow the United Kingdom’s lead on protection for these animals.

Octopus Threats

Despite octopus populations booming, they are still not exempt from many of the threats that come with living in the ocean.

We, humans, are incredibly destructive, and our activities have an incredibly harmful effect on lots of marine life.

Below are some of the biggest threats that octopuses face:

Habitat Destruction

Habitat destruction is the process by which a natural habitat becomes incapable of supporting its native species.

Octopuses are found in every ocean in the world, but they spend much of their time in coral reefs and coastal marine waters searching for food.

As reefs and coral starts to decline, octopuses are forced out and need to adapt to new surroundings.


Annual global demand for octopuses more than doubled from 1980 to 2019, from roughly 180,000 to 370,000 tons.

That’s a lot of octopuses! The supply of octopuses has been constrained by overfishing in many key fisheries and proponents of farming suggest human-induced culturing could help restock natural populations.

The demand for octopuses has risen significantly and keeps on going, largely due to the creatures being considered a delicacy in some parts of the world.

To keep up with the demand, fisheries are overfishing octopuses which becomes a threat to their population and may become worse in the future.

Marine Pollution

Marine pollution is a serious problem for many species that inhabit our oceans. A combination of both chemicals and trash, most of which comes from land sources are ending up in our oceans.

Nitrogen and phosphorus released from feces and food decomposition as well as contamination from fertilizers, herbicides, antibiotics, and more all pollute our oceans where octopuses reside.

Octopuses are highly intelligent animals that use their surroundings for survival, often hiding in empty coconut shells or seashells that they find on the seafloor.

However, now that their habitats are suffering from marine pollution, the research published by Marine Pollution Bulletin documented 24 species of octopus sheltering inside glass bottles, cans, and even an old battery.

They are burying themselves in a mixture of bottle tops and seashells, and even carry plastic items around with them as a form of protection from predators.

This is the sad reality that many marine species face due to marine pollution, but it also goes to show the intelligence and adaptability of octopuses, using these items to their advantage.

Final Thoughts

Are octopuses endangered? No, in fact, they are actually thriving. Octopuses and other cephalopods are adapting to the changes in their environments well, allowing them to breed and keep their populations growing.

Despite the threats they face, due to their reproduction rate, the number of eggs they lay, and the protective nature of their mothers, populations are booming all around the world.

This is great to see, as many marine species are suffering and are endangered, whilst the octopus is overcoming adversity and thriving, even in these uncertain times for marine life.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post and I really hope you have learned something new today about octopus populations.

If you have enjoyed this article, feel free to stick around to learn more about octopuses and lots of other marine wildlife species.