The Maya octopus, a species endemic to the Yucatan peninsula with high ecological and commercial value

This specie is found from Isla del Carmen in Campeche to Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo. Photo: (La Jornada Maya)

Mèrida, Yucatàn (May 07, 2021).- The Maya octopus is a species exclusive to the Yucatan peninsula and its ecological importance is born precisely from this characteristic, since it is endemic and that increases its commercial value and according to specialists, although it is not at risk of disappearing, poaching is a strong threat to the species.

Alejandro Medina Quej, head of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the Technological Institute of Chetumal, explained that this species has a very short life span since it only lives between a year and a year and a half and to be captured it must reach adult age, taking into account that they can measure up to one meter.

Given this characteristic, the risk is precisely when fishermen do not verify the size and age of the animal before catching it.

Photo: (La Jornada Maya)

“In Campeche, its catch has been very variable, but in Yucatan, there is a very strong fleet of vessels that are dedicated to its fishing, while in Quintana Roo most fishermen use artisanal fishing methods,” he said.

Although the species has not been classified as endangered, it is affected by poaching, since the allowed fishing season is from August 1 to December 15, so that during the rest of the year the females can arrive to the places where they reproduce and lay their eggs.

Photo: (La Jornada Maya)

For Medina Quej, the request made by various fisheries demanding that the Maya octopus obtain the designation of origin from the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property (IMPI) would contribute to the species having greater protection.

“Products that have a designation of origin have programs that try to have better quality, so if the Maya octopus obtains this designation, it would have a more adequate fishing and the corresponding capture measures would have to be respected,” he explained.

In relation to its environmental importance, studies carried out at the Academic Unit of Sisal, an extension unit of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), indicate that the Maya octopus species can be harmed by an increase in temperature of the sea, as a result of global warming.

Photo: (La Jornada Maya)

That is, the octopus lives in temperatures that range between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius, but if the temperature is lower or higher, the females cannot lay their eggs, and the young will not hatch, in addition, adults become stressed and unable to reproduce. 

According to the Official Gazette of the Federation (DOF), in Yucatan, there are around 22 processing plants certified by the Federal Commission for the Prevention of Sanitary Risks (Cofepris) for the export of octopus to the European Union. In the state of Campeche there are 110 fisheries, 12 ice factories, 25 docks, and berths dedicated to octopus fishing and processing.

Photo: (La Jornada Maya)

Internationally, the Maya octopus is shipped on ice to Japan, Spain, Korea, and Italy and within the country, to Mexico City, Puebla, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Jalisco, Sinaloa, and Mexicali.

In addition to the economic impact of the activity in the Yucatan peninsula, octopus fishing has great social importance due to the large number of people involved in this industry, since it occupies approximately 90 percent of the fishing population of Yucatan and Campeche, which means more than 15 thousand fishermen. 

Each year, the production of octopus in the entire Yucatan Peninsula ranges between 9,000 and 24,000 tons, with an economic value between 300 million and one billion pesos. 

There are no records on the magnitude of illegal fishing, however, it is known that there is the use of fishing gear and prohibited methods such as hook or snooping, both in the capture season and during the closed season as well. 

Source: La Jornada Maya