Octopus in The Philippines

The Philippines is a major producer of octopus and the catch methods are mostly artisanal, generating livelihoods for thousands of rural small-scale fishermen. While in many countries octopus are caught by trawlers, in the Philippines this fishing method is banned and only artisanal fishing methods are used like spearfishing, jiggers, traps and by hand. Despite the sustainability of the majority of these gear types, there is no real management of the stock and landings figures and details are mostly lacking. Octopus are landed by small-scale opportunistic fishers that will bring any valuable catch to local middlemen (buying stations) that trade an assorted array of species for export purposes. Only a small number of processing plants in the Philippines process and export octopus. For most of these companies octopus is only a side product as export volumes are relatively small and octopus are not the easiest species to process. The majority of the octopus exporters are based close to the main ports in the Philippines including in Manila, Cebu and General Santos. Additionally, two major processing plants are also based in Palawan close to the extensive octopus and squid fishing grounds in this province. Although the international interest for Philippine octopus is increasing, local catches are decreasing and so are the number of buying stations around the country. Since no management measures for octopus stocks have been planned, this trend is expected to continue.


Production and export statistics

Production and export data for octopus are limited, and there is no information available on catches per gear type or landings per province. There is some export product data available, but this data is not further specified than frozen products.

Species wise production

Source: FAO (2018)

Although there are several species of octopus found in the Philippines, the big blue octopus (Octopus cyanea), also known as day octopus or cyane’s octopus, is commercially the most important species. This is a tasty octopus that flowers well and is able to compete with the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) from the Mediterranean Sea. The annual landings of assorted octopus species have decreased 20% in the past 5 years from 5,158 MT to 3,994 MT. Besides these very general FAO landing figures very little data is available on the octopus fishery in the Philippines and the region. No landing figures are available from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) for octopus, except export figures. Although fishing effort is still increasing, catches are most probably decreasing because of the overfished status of the stock and a decrease in suitable habitat for these octopus, which are coral reefs.

Export markets

Source: Trade Map (2018), International Trade Centre, intracen.org and BFAR

All octopus from the Philippines is exported frozen and no other, more detailed figures are available. Figures indicate that around 5,857 MT was exported in 2017, with an estimated value of 24,9 million US$.

The United States is the largest buyer of Philippine octopus. Due to higher pricing of Philippine octopus on the American market compared to octopus from Indonesia and to a renewed popularity of "Spanish octopus", export figures in terms of value and volume had a large decline between 2012

and 2015. Numbers from 2016 and 2017 show a steady increase, where the US in 2017 imported three times as much octopus from the Philippines as they did in 2015.

South Korea, the largest market for octopus in southeast Asia, which triples its import from Philippines in terms of value from 2012 to 2015, has had a steady import of Philippines octopus the last years. The strategy of Filipino companies of working together with South Korean importers to develop product lines for octopus and other seafood products that meet the specifications for the Korean market has paid off. Japan, which annually have imported around 100 MT, tripled its import in 2017. These large buyers are followed by smaller buyers like Canada and Italy which acquire between 200,000 US$ to 1 million US$ of Philippine octopus annually.

The large increase of export to 'Other' countries in 2014 is due of a spike in exports to China.

Supply Chain

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Risk assessment

Potential environmental risks

  • Overfishing due to a lack of management of octopus stocks
  • Damaging coral reef when trying to catch octopus from their hiding places

Potential social risks

  • None

Potential quality and supply chain risks

  • Octopus are very sensitive to spoilage and can only be stored a very limited time in ice slurry
  • Traceability is mostly absent in this supply chain
  • Thousands of small-scale fishers scattered around the country which makes it hard to make improvements to the quality of the products
  • In the past octopus has sometimes been treated to make it appear fresher

Species in The Philippines

Click on the species and find out more about the species in The Philippines