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Project December 11, 2023

The Illegal Supply Chain Behind the Baby Octopus Delicacy in Yucatán

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In the Yucatan Peninsula, a notable challenge emerges as fishermen resort to homemade oxygen tanks made from beer containers, motors, and air compressors to fish octopuses, including young ones, to increase sales.

Despite the region contributing 82% of Mexico's octopus fishery exports, worth $27 million annually and ranking as the third-largest global exporter, the escalating use of illegal methods is depleting Mayan Octopus availability. This has led to a 30% reduction in catches since 2019, impacting the economy and tradition of legal fishermen. In addition, divers using compressors face health issues, plus the irresponsible distribution of artificial shelters made from cement vaults and plastic tubes in the Bank of Campeche is contaminating the sea.

Moreover, the exploitation in the legal market of "baby octopus" below the legal size disrupts the species' reproductive cycle. Our research reveals that major companies and cooperative leaders finance illegal techniques, taking advantage of legal loopholes and corruption.

Experts warn of the potential extinction of this industry due to year-round commercialization of octopus, non-compliance with fishing bans, and inadequate vigilance from authorities with insufficient budgets, prompting local efforts to preserve the million-dollar industry and ensure the culinary delicacy's quality.

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