Giant Pacific Octopus

The Science

Highly intelligent; has learned to open jars, mimic other octopuses, and solve mazes in lab tests [4]

The Fishery

Can be caught in unbaited pots because they seek out cavities for shelter [19]

The Seafood

Will go from tender, to tough, then back to tender again during cooking. Thus, you have to barely cook it, or really cook it [12]

The Science

Giant Pacific Octopus
John Carleton/CC BY-NC-SA

Taxonomic description

  • Largest species of octopus in the world; average weight is 50 Kg (110 lbs) and length of 5 meters (15 ft) [4]
  • Has a huge, bulbous head and is generally reddish-brown in color [4]
  • Uses special pigment cells, called chromatophores [6] in its skin to change colors and textures to camouflage very well [4]
  • Secretes ink when it feels threatened [14]
  • Can squeeze through small spaces and only limited by the size of its beak since that is the hardest part of its body [11]


  • Found throughout the temperate waters of the Pacific, from Southern California to Alaska, west to the Aleutian Islands and Japan [4]

Life history

  • Life span is 3-5 years [19]
  • It hatches from an egg, floats to the ocean’s surface, and experiences planktonic stage for 30-90 days [6]
  • About one percent of the planktonic larvae survive [2] because many are lost to predators [3], but once settled to the sea floor, juvenile octopuses grow rapidly and have a significantly higher survival rate [19]
  • Ready to mate at 1-2 years of age; mates in the spring [19]; males and females find each other, then use their sense of sight to determine attraction during courtship [6]
  • A male uses its ligula to place spermatophore into the female’s oviduct; entire mating process takes 3-4 hours [6]
  • Females lay 20,000 to 100,000 eggs in a den and tend to them throughout incubation (5-7 months) [19]
  • After mating, males and females experience senescence (the final stage of the mating process and life cycle) during which they refuse to eat; males die within a few months after mating and females die shortly after the eggs hatch [6]
  • Predation or starvation is the usual cause of death [6]


  • Lives in dens and caves [15] in intertidal zones to depths of 750 meters (2,500 ft) [3]
  • Only the largest fish (such as halibut and ling cod) and marine mammals are any threat to adults [3]
  • Hunts at same depths in which it lives; newly hatched octopuses eat small organisms (copepods, larval crabs, and seastars); Adults feed on crabs, clams, snails, small fishes and other octopuses [3]
  • Generally nocturnal, hunts at night [11]
  • Uses eight strong arms, combined with suckers [6], to find and hold prey; it may paralyze prey such as fish with a toxic saliva, then tear into it with its parrot-like beak or simply pull the prey’s defenses apart (as with crab shells) to get at the meal within [11]
  • Humans use it for food, aquarium pets, and bait [3]

The Fishery

Seasonal availability

  • Potentially available year-round because there is no defined fishing season, and rock crab traps are set year round [8]

Managing authority

  • There is little to no information on the commercial fishery in California
  • California Department of Fish & Wildlife: No regulations specific for this species, all octopus species are regulated together and managed under rock crab and spiny lobster fisheries in which it is incidentally caught [8,17]

Gear type

  • Caught in baited rectangular crab traps made of welded mesh or collapsible plastic attached to a buoy; Most commercial trapping occurs 27-73 m (90-240 ft) deep on open sandy bottoms or nearby rocky reefs; commercial crab boats are typically small & may set 200+ traps, which must each be raised & emptied every 96 hrs, weather permitting  [13]
  • Caught in rectangular wire lobster traps baited with fish and weighted down on the seafloor and around rocky underwater outcrops in water less than 40 m (100 ft) deep; each boat uses 300-400 traps on average [1]

Status of the fishery

  • Appears to be a lack of concern for stocks at current level of commercial exploitation [17]
  • Stock numbers appear healthy despite the lack of regulation [15]

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Use of traps on the seafloor presents a risk of damage if traps are dragged or scraped on bottom, and potential entanglement of marine mammals in buoy lines [9, 10] 

The Seafood

Mark Bittman,

Edible portions

  • The arms are usually eaten, however the entire octopus is used in some recipes

Description of meat

  • Has a slightly sweet flavor when eaten raw [5]
  • Flavor is heavily influenced by cooking flavors and methods used  

Culinary uses

  • Sold in a variety of forms, including fresh, frozen, dried, salted, and brined. When prepared fresh, it is often served alongside other seafood in stews, paella, and pasta dishes, but can also be prepared on its own (usually roasted or grilled) [14]
  • Must be properly cleaned and sliced before it can be prepared; if the beak and head are still attached, then those parts should be removed [5]
  • If bought live, gloves are recommended since it can bite [12]
  • Long, slow cooking should always deliver tender results. The average simmering time should be about an hour for a 1 lb (450g) Octopus, two hours for a 4 lb (1.8kg) octopus, but that will vary. The best way to tell is to treat it like a potato: poke it with a knife and when it's ready it should feel as soft to the knife as a potato would [12]

Nutritional information 

  • Lean and low in calories [16]
  • Naturally low in fat but high in cholesterol [16]
  • Naturally high in iron, selenium, and vitamin B-12 [16]
  • Nutrition values listed in table [20]

Toxicity report

  • None known

Seasonal availability

  • Available year round [17]


[1] California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Year? Invertebrates of Interest: California Spiny Lobster. Available: Web. 30 May, 2017.

[2] My Diet Meal Planner. Fish & Seafood." Web. 30 May 2017. <

[3] National Aquarium. Giant Pacific Octopus.. Web. 30 May 2017.

[4] National Geographic Society. Giant Pacific Octopus.. Web. 30 May 2017. <

[5] Haney, K W. "What Does Octopus Taste Like? And How to Prepare It!" Fortunate Kitchen. Fortunate Kitchen, 12 Apr. 2017. Web. 30 May 2017. <>.

[6] Kalupa, J. "The Giant Pacific Octopus: Enteroctopus Dofleini." Web. 30 May 2017.

[7] Luther, C. "The Nutrition in Octopus." Leaf Group, 15 Dec. 2015. Web. 30 May 2017. <>.

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

[9] Iacchei, M., P. Robinson & K.A. Miller .2005. Direct impacts of commercial and recreational fishing on spiny lobster, Panulirus interruptus, populations at Santa Catalina Island, California, United States, New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research.

[10] Monterey Bay Aquarium. 2013. Fishing Methods Fact Card: Traps and Pots.

[11] Seattle Aquarium  Octopus.". Seattle Aquarium. Web. 30 May 2017.

[12] Oulton, R. Octopus. Published 11 November 2003; revised 07 November 2007. Web. Accessed 05/30/2017. <>.

[13] Parker, D.O. 2002. Annual Status of the Fisheries Report. California Dept of Fish & Wildlife. Marine Region.

[14] Schiller, L. Monterey Bay Aquarium: Giant Pacific Octopus. Monterey Bay Aquarium: Seafood Watch, 2015. PDF.

[15] Tank, S. State of the Catch: A Professional's Guide to Sustainable Seafood. Vancouver: David Suzuki Foundation, 2006. PDF.

[16] The Nutrients in Octopus.SF Gate. Web. 30 May 2017.

[17] United States of America. California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2017 California Commercial Fishing. Web. 30 May 2017.

[18] Wilson, C. What’s the Best Method for Catching Octopuses? California Outdoors Q and A. California Department of Fish and Wildlife, 20 Aug. 2016. Web. 30 May 2017.

[19] Woodford, R., and K. Donohue. "Giant North Pacific Octopus." Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Web. 30 May 2017.

[20] Giant Pacific Octopus.Web. Accessed: 21 September 2017.