California Two-Spot Octopus

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The Science

This octopus typically lives for one year, and dies after having offspring.

The Fishery

During El Nińo, this octopus moves closer to the shore for warmer water and become more vulnerable to fishery than during La Nińa. 

The Seafood

Many cuisines serve octopus as a specialty. One popular way to serve it in Mexico and Southern California is in a fresh marinated ceviche.

The Science

octopus hiding in crevice
tsoleau/flickr

Taxonomic description

  • As with other octopi, this octopus is a soft bodied mollusk with eight tentacles. [3]
  • Distinguished by two bright blue spots on either side of its body that resemble eyes, thought to be an adaptation to ward off predators. [3]
  • Has a mottled brown color, but like its relatives, it can change skin color and texture when hunting, hiding, mating, or responding to other stimuli. [3]
  • Average size is 45cm (18in) long, a smaller species compared to its counterparts. [3]

Distribution

  • Pacific Ocean along the coast from Northern California to Baja California, Mexico. [3]

Life history

  • Life span: 1-1.5 years in the wild, up to 2 years in captivity. [3]
  • Matures quickly at the embryonic stage, emerging from the egg fully capable of hunting and feeding itself. [3]
  • The California two-spot octopus grows indeterminately and reaches mating age between 1 and 2 years. [3]
  • Semelparous (mates once in a lifetime) and can mate at any time during the year, although primarily during summer due to warmer water temperatures. [3]
  • The male inseminates female using spermatophores and dies shortly after. [3]
  • The fertilized female will lay an average of 70,000 eggs in a den and siphon cool water over the nest; female often dies during this period due to starvation and exhaustion. [3]
  • Eggs hatch after a 150-210 day gestation period. [3]

Habitat

  • Found in the intertidal and subtidal (up to 3 meters or 15 feet depth). [3]
  • Prefers rocky reefs, canyon ledges or a habitat with small caves or holes in which it can den, and is known to inhabit abandoned pipes. [3]
  • Highly developed eyes support its mostly nocturnal behavior. [3]
  • Preys on smaller mollusks and crustaceans. [3]
  • Predators include Moray eels, harbor seals, sea lions, and humans. [3]   

The Fishery

crab traps stacked on top of each other
sswj/flickr

Seasonal availability

  • Available year round. [4]

Regulatory and managing authority

  • As tit is caught as bycatch for the California spiny lobster fishery, it is managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  [1,7]
  • As it is not a commercially targeted species, there are currently no formal management plans in place but this fishery is monitored. [4,7]

Gear type

  • Often caught in pots and mesh traps intended for crab and spiny lobster; hand capture. [5]
  • No other gear targeting octopus is currently permitted by CDFW. [4]

Status of the fishery

  • The fishery is at maximum sustainable yield and fishing effort should not increase (little enforcement of regulation). [5]
  • Scientifically independent stock assessment is needed for more effective management, including data on long and short term trends in population abundance. [5]
  • Currently has no special conservation status but studies about female gonadal development and juveniles suggest that a minimal catch size should be implemented. [5]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Hand capture methods have minimal to no destruction of habitat, however traps have moderate effect on physical and biogenic habitats. [5]
  • Removal of species can potentially impact the food web or ecosystem, as with any other top predator. [5]
  • Susceptible to overfishing but also capable of rapid recovery. [5]
  • Conservation concern is higher because this species range is limited to one coastline. [5]

The Seafood

cooked octopus in red sauce with bean sprouts on the side
Matt Boman/flickr

Edible portions

  • All of the meat and skin is edible, including tentacles; beak, eyes, innards, and ink sac are removed and discarded before consumption. [6]

Description of meat

  • The long muscle fibers can make for tough, chewy meat if not properly tenderized or if overcooked. [6]
  • The meat has a slightly sweet taste, similar to shellfish and squid. [6]
  • Skin is colored and gelatinous, and the meat is white. [6]

Culinary uses

  • Cooking time is short since species is small as to prevent the meat from becoming tough. [6]
  • Usually blanched in wine or water to cook meat, then served hot on the grill or marinated cold for use in salads and ceviche. [6]
  • Usually prepared with minimal seasonings such as lemon and herbs as to not overwhelm the light sweet flavor. [6]
  • Versatile: recipes that use octopus include pastas, stews, soups, salads, and barbeque. [6]
  • For a recipe for Korean spicy stir-fried octopus, visit Maangchi. [8]

Nutritional information 

  • Nutritional content for 100g serving of octopus is listed. [2]
  • Meat is low in fat and high in protein and cholesterol. [2]
  • Has healthy abundance of vitamins and minerals, especially iron, Vitamin B-12, and Selenium. [2]

Toxicity report

  • None known. [2]

Seasonal availability

  • It is available year round, but locally caught octopus is limited as it is a rarer seafood item.

References

[1] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2017. ‘Commercial Fishing Licenses’. Web. https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Licensing/Commercial. Accessed: 21 May 2017

[2] Octopus. Web. Nutritionvalue.org. Accessed: 21 September 2017. 

[3] Hamilton, B. Swope, L., 2013. ‘Octopus bimaculatus’. Web. http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Octopus_bimaculatus . Accessed: 12 May 2017

[4] Major, D. 2017. Personal Communication. San Diego Commercial Fisherman, F/V Plan B, San Diego Bay, CA.

[5] Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. 2007. ‘Gulf of California Seafood Report: Octopus’. Web. https://www.seachoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/MBA_SeafoodWatch_Gu.... Accessed: 18 May 2017

[6] Splendid Table. 2013. ‘Octopus Demystified’. Web. https://www.splendidtable.org/story/octopus-demystified. Accessed 18 May 2017.

[7] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2016. California Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan. Web. https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=121938&inline. Accessed 24 November 2020. 

[8] Maangchi. 2018. Spicy stir-fried octopus (Nakji-bokkeum). Web. https://www.maangchi.com/recipe/nakji-bokkeum. Accessed 12 January 2021. 

[9] Vavra, J. flickr. 2007. a-O-bimaculoides. Digital image. Web. https://flickr.com/photos/43973579@N08/4204837425. Accessed 16 February 2021. 

[10] tsoleau. flickr. 2015. California two-spot octopus. Digital image. Web. https://flickr.com/photos/23535767@N04/25237011152. Accessed 16 February 2021.

[11] sswj. flickr. 2010. Pillar Point Crab Pots (Color). Digital image. Web. https://flickr.com/photos/sswj40/22092086652. Accessed 16 February 2021. 

[12] Boman, M. flickr. 2012. Octopus. Digital image. Web. https://flickr.com/photos/10384097@N08/6851284615. Accessed 16 February 2021.