Octopus farm accused of offering ‘petting zoo’ experience shuts down after cease-and-desist

The owner of Kanaloa Octopus Farm said their research facility has room for up to 20 adult cephalopods.
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 10:50 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2023 at 5:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State advises Big Island octopus farm to stop unpermitted activities.

The state Division of Aquatic Resources served a cease-and-desist letter to Kanaloa Octopus Farm last month and said the company is not allowed to have day octopuses under one pound.

It also cannot take them from the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area for aquarium purposes.

DLNR said it received complaints and found that the research center in Kona doesn’t have the permits to handle Hawaiian day octopus.

Laura Lee Cascada, with The Every Animal Project, captured video last spring at the facility where visitors are allowed to interact with the animals.

Cascada said she visited the farm because of her fondness for octopuses.

“I basically saw what looked like a petting zoo,” said Cascada. “They were inviting tourists to come in and basically play with octopuses.”

She conducted her own investigation of the farm and publicized the results last October.

“What I discovered is that it’s actually a greenwashing and humane washing operation, in which the facility is capturing wild octopuses and putting them into tiny tanks,” said Cascada.

“And then later subjecting them to forced breeding experiments, which are always fatal.”

Jake Conroy, owner of Kanaloa Octopus Farm, released the following statement to Hawaii News Now:

“Kanaloa Octopus does not work with the following regulated animals: Day Octopuses under one pound and any animals caught in West Hawaii waters.”

But a tour guide was caught on camera saying this, “All of our octopus are wild caught, they are local from out here in the Kona waters.”

The guide continued, “We have a gentleman go out and catch them for us and we love to call them the ‘octopus whisperers.’ They know exactly where they will be and when they will be there.”

Conroy also told HNN his farm is studying cephalopod reproduction and is seeking to develop technology to breed cephalopods for future conservation efforts.

Cascada, however, believes his ideas are misguided.

“Octopuses are such complex beings who deserve to be protected, and in my view, there is no way to humanely farm them,” said Cascada. “And the best response to overfishing them is to reduce the fishing of them to keep octopuses out of our diets and to eat humane alternatives.”

Conroy said they have voluntarily paused their public education and octopus breeding programs.

They are working with the state to ensure they’re in full compliance.