World Congress on Cephalopods: Overview on Supplies


About 370 participants gathered in Vigo, Spain, for the one-day conference on cephalopods on 3 October 2016. This was the fifth time that Conxemar, in cooperation with FAO, organized this conference. 

In the first part of the conference, the focus was on production and trade of cephalopods in the most important supplier countries, like Argentina, Chile, Peru, Mauritania, and China. While cephalopods constitute a small part of total global landings, its share of the total supplies has increased from about 2 per cent in 1980 to over 5 per cent today. The general consensus was, however, that supplies of squid are low this year and will remain low for the rest of the year. Consequently, price increases are expected. For octopus and cuttlefish, the supply situation was considered better.

In recent years, the fishery and aquaculture sector has been a major contributor to the economy of many developing countries, not only as a source of income but also in providing employment and as a source of healthy and nutritious food.

Cephalopods today represents 5% of the total capture volume in the world 4% of the total volume of fisheries world trade. In international trade, fish constitutes the most important commodity group, accounting for 50,4% of the animal proteins trade, followed by beef with 19,9%, pork with 15,02% and poultry with 14,5%.

Countries with a high level of cephalopods consumption are Spain, Italy and Japan. In these
countries, squid is the most important product, followed by octopus and cuttlefish.

In a general overview of the status of cephalopods in the world, Angel Guerra of the Spanish Institute
of Marine Research concluded that in general, the resource situation is good. However, since most cephalopods have a short life span, rapid changes may occur, and it is therefore difficult to predict long-term trends.

Looking back, all populations have grown over the past 50 years. This has been and is linked to
environmental changes. In the last five years, changes in water temperatures ("global warming") have caused some changes (reduction of sea outcrop, different types of pollution, insufficient oxygen in the water, metals, ashes of terrestrial origin, etc.). Hence cephalopods production has been affected. In some areas, cephalopods have disappeared and moved to other areas. However, the consumption and the growth of cephalopods have increased because of their ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

The management of cephalopod resources is very difficult, for a number of reasons. There is a lack of historical data which makes it difficult to run simulations about the future, and much of the fishing takes place in international waters and is therefore difficult to control.

Country presentations covering the main producers in the world were presented for 13 countries or
regions (Argentina, Chile, Peru, South Atlantic, USA East Coast, USA West Coast, Mauritania, Senegal, South Africa, China, India, Thailand, and Indonesia).

South American countries all complained about the very high activity outside the various countries' EEZs by foreign fleets. More cooperation in controlling the high seas fishery was called for, but is difficult to achieve. In addition, some countries have been affected by the "El Niño'' and "La Niña'' phenomena. One of the countries seriously affected by El Niño is Peru. The catches of squid have decreased during the last two years.
In the South Atlantic zone outside the 200 miles, the foreign fleets operate with some artificial advantages. For example, they receive subsides, exploit cheap labour or operate with labour regimes without fees in the destination markets. In this zone there are more than 70 foreign vessels of which more than 55% are squid vessels from different countries such as Korea, Taiwan, Spain, China, Uruguay, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, etc.

In North America (mainly USA), the squid fishery on the east coast represents about 20 – 25 per cent
of total fisheries, according to Jeff Kaelin of the Mid Atlantic Fisheries Council. For 2016 it is estimated that the catch will amount to about 20 000 tonnes. On the US west coast, 2015 landings amounted to 36 000 tonnes, but this will be significantly reduced in 2016, perhaps to about 25 000 tonnes. The quota is 118 000 tonnes, but it will not be possible to reach this level, according to Joe Capuccio of Del Mar Seafoods.

In North Africa, Mauritania and Morocco are the main producers. Mauritania has seen a decline in
fishing effort since 2000, and for the present season, it is expected that about 10 000 tonnes of octopus will be landed, in addition to 2 – 3 000 tonnes of squid and 2 000 tonnes of cuttlefish. Through a fishing agreement with the EU, the Spanish fleet has been very active on the northern coast of Mauritania. In Morocco, octopus is the main species landed, followed by squid and cuttlefish.

Senegal is also an important producer in this region, but in the period from 2011 to 2013, catches of
cephalopods declined. However, during the past two years, catches of cephalopods have stabilized. Most of the Senegalese catch is caught by artisanal fishers, while the industrial sector accounts for about 11 per cent of the total. In 2015, most of the exports went to the EU (54,8% to Italy, Spain with 19% and 8,4% to France), Japan (6,95%) and Cape Verde (3,12%). During the first half of 2016, main exports went to West Africa (66 per cent), with about 17 per cent going to the EU and 16 per cent to Asia.

South Africa and Namibia have an industrial cephalopods fishery, producing mainly squid. Unlike other regions in the world, the 2016 fishery in South Africa is expected to be quite good, and South African exporters will benefit from high prices on the world market and their own ability to supply products. Practically 100 per cent of the squid catch is exported, and about 95 per cent go to the EU.
The largest producer of all is China. In 2015, the country landed about 700 000 tonnes of cephalopods from domestic waters. In addition, Chinese vessels operating in international waters caught over 820 000 tonnes, and a total of 635 000 tonnes were imported. Total cephalopods supplies in China in 2015 thus amounted to 2.2 million tonnes. Of this, about 865 000 tonnes were consumed domestically, and 966 000 tonnes were exported after being processed.

The outlook for 2016 in China is bleak, however. Catches from international waters are expected to
fall by almost 50%, and domestic catches will probably also fall. In addition, imports are likely to be dramatically reduced, from 635 000 tonnes in 2015 to just 140 000 tonnes in 2016. Thus, the Chinese processing industry will face a very tight supply situation, and the Chinese consumer market will also have a difficult situation. Prices on the Chinese market have already doubled, and are expected to rise further.

India is the fourth largest fishing nation in the world in terms of volume landed. Total landings in
2014 amounted to 4.7 million tonnes, plus an aquaculture production of 4.9 million tonnes. In 2015, 107 846 tonnes of cuttlefish, 94 222 tonnes of squid and 11 200 tonnes of octopus were landed.
Most of this came from artisanal fisheries, although the industrial sector is growing.

Thailand's catches of cephalopods are not impressive, and they have been declining sharply in later
years. In 2012, Thailand landed 14 280 tonnes, but this dropped to just 6 302 tonnes in 2015. Exports of cephalopods also declined, and are expected to decline further in 2016. The key markets are the European Union (Italy with 85,71%, Germany with 4,44% and Netherlands with 2,26%), Japan and Vietnam. Landings of octopus and cuttlefish are reasonably stable, while squid catches have declined markedly. As much as 87 per cent of cephalopods exports are exported fresh, chilled or frozen, while only 13 per cent are processed.

The conclusion from these presentations was quite clear:

  • Squid landings have been falling dramatically on a global basis during 2015 and particularly in 2016. Particularly landings from South America have been declining, both within the EEZ of the coastal states there, and in the open ocean areas.
  • Cuttlefish landings have been more stable, although there have been some fluctuations from year to year.
  • Octopus landings have shown indications of increasing in recent years. The supply situation has therefore improved somewhat.

With a view to achieving sustainability, it is essential to consider the importance of evaluation and
resource management of the industry. The following are therefore important considerations:

  • Apply management models (based on clear and well-defined statistics which can reflect the reality in the industry);
  • Compliance with the current laws and legislations;
  • Identification, protection and conservation of the essential habitats of the species and the protection of the biodiversity of the ecosystems;
  • Actions on the sources of atmospheric and oceanic pollution.


Read more about the conference: 

World Congress on Cephalopods: Markets and Trade

World Congress on Cephalopods: Sustainability and innovation

Announcement: #Vigo16: A consolidated yearly appointment for fisheries stakeholders