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Octopus glides through clear sea, 8 tentacles intertwine as graceful as octopus
Luc8k Lifestyle

8 Legs of Sustainability: Sophie's Deep Dive into Portuguese Octopus Fishing

Heya all you funky monkeys out there! It’s me, your girl Sophie, the sassiest, snazziest, cheekiest, chicest giraffe this side of the Moon! I’ve not been away from my home in Botswana for a while, so it kinda made sense that my next port of call was, erm, literally a port. I’ve never been to Portugal before, and my football crazy calves wanted me to go there and grab a couple of signed Cristiano Ronaldo shirts. I told them he’s busy at the Euro’s playing for Portugal in Germany, but I found a much better reason for me to trot my hot stuff over there, and the answer might surprise you…

I had a little Google session, and when I typed in ‘sustainability in Portugal’, something fishy caught my attention. So, I jumped on a plane, and five days later (do you have any idea how hard it is to get from Botswana to Europe when you’re an 16ft high walking security risk??) I found myself in the Algarve where sun-kissed beaches meet crystal clear azure waters. My mission? To find out more about local fishermen and women who are turning into unexpected, super-duper eco-warriors.

After finding a taxi driver at the airport who would actually let me play Dua Lipa’s new album full blast on my portable speakers, I made it to the idyllic coastal town of Armação de Pêra. Don’t worry, I gave him a good tip – next time you pick up a sassy giraffe, make damn sure you have a sunroof! Anyway, Armação de Pêra is like my LUC8K bags - the perfect blank canvas, waiting for the splash of colors that each and every intrepid explorer brings to the party. I found myself weaving in and out amongst the bustling crowds, with boatloads of tour operators and fishermen, all in search of one of the region's most prized delicacies – the octopus.

Yes, my dear loyal followers, while sardines might usually steal the spotlight in Portugal, like little ol’ moi, it’s the octopus that’s the true star. Not only that, our octo-friend has 8 legs which fits nicely with the number 8 in LUC8K! Perfect! (Disclaimer: Technically, the octopus has 6 arms and 2 legs, and people mistakenly say they have 8 tentacles but hey, these are details that didn’t stop me in my mission!)

 

Community-Driven Conservation: Empowering Local Fishers in Octopus Management

Portugal consumes over 15,000 tonnes of octopus a year – the highest amount of any country in Europe. I’m not squidding you! The common octopus is not only a staple of the Portuguese diet but also the most lucrative seafood product in the Algarve, making it the lifeblood of small-scale fishing communities. Maybe it’s why all the Portugese humans look so…how can I put it…drop dead gorgeous! Wow, if I wasn’t a giraffe and married, I’d be trotting off into the sunset with quite a few Portugese waiters!

I swear on my calf’s life that one of them was staring up at me and giving me the eye as I sat down to brunch with our friends (who I tracked down on the internet) fisheries researcher Mafalda Rangel and Miguel Rodrigues, the former president of Armação de Pêra’s Fishermen’s Association. Lovely men with greasy hair and soft warm hands. Once they got over the shock that I was a giraffe and not a female human with a degree in biology and economics, Mafalda told me that over 90% of Algarve fishers use traps and pots to land octopus, raking in a significant amount of cash, but the journey from seafloor to plate is becoming increasingly fraught. With commercial fishing and tourism activities putting pressure on the reef, and the octopus trade not officially endangered but still under threat, the stakes are high. Just like our beloved sardines and tuna, octopus numbers could drop if we’re not careful.

After half a bottle of Portugese wine, very nice by the way, Miguel reminisced about his childhood days when he used to chase local girls wearing tight silk trousers, and the waters were teeming with marine life too. Today, despite using more sophisticated traps and boats with engines, fishers are hauling up fewer octopuses. He told me they have more fishing nets and more ways to catch fish, but there are no more fish, and he’s too old now to chase girls.

 

Beyond Ronaldo: How Portuguese Fishers Are Saving the Octopus Trade

But all is not lost, because these fishers aren’t just sitting around talking about Ronaldo or comparing the size of their biceps. They’re taking proactive steps to safeguard their resources for the future. They’re actually working hard to establish a new model that empowers communities to protect these ocean species they depend on. Two projects – a new Marine Protected Area (MPA) and a co-management committee – are giving fishers an equal say in their futures, and that to me is way more impressive than their expensive designer boat shoes.

After brunch, we took a short walk along the harbour. I had an ice cream and they talked to me about clay pots. These aren’t your average, run-of-the-mill containers. Oh no, they’re like the original eco-friendly Tupperware. Fishermen like Rodrigues use these red clay pots, known as alcatruz, to catch octopuses. These clever cephalopods crawl into the crevices of the pots seeking shelter and are pulled back up to the surface. Most modern fishers have traded this method for plastic cylindrical pots, but the traditional clay pots can act as a weather gauge – shattering in stormy weather and warning fishers to stay ashore. How's that for multitasking?

They got a bit technical and most of it went over my head to be honest, but I learnt that the octopus is a very particular species (even more than I am when it comes to fashion and that’s saying something!) – it dies after breeding and has a very short lifespan, usually between one to two years. This makes them super susceptible to environmental changes, and because the global catch of octopuses almost doubled from 1980 to 2014, there are growing concerns over future supply as demand for seafood ramps up.

But here's where things get interesting – the community’s efforts to protect their marine life are nothing short of inspirational. In 2021, Portugal’s first Marine Protected Area of Community Interest was created, thanks to the collective vision of locals. Around 89 organizations, including local municipalities, scientists, fishing associations, and tourism and hospitality bodies, collaborated to form the Recife do Algarve Marine Natural Park – Pedra do Valado. This initiative protects around 156 sq km (60.2 sq miles) of sea, with a 20km (12.4 miles) no-fishing zone to give wildlife a chance to replenish. Fabulous, right?

 

Local Wisdom, Global Impact: Algarve's Community-Driven Marine Protection Success

For Rodrigues, the MPA was a last-ditch attempt to save the reef and its many inhabitants. He loves octopus like I love my obscene collection of bespoke leather bags, but the only way to get the community involved in this was to get a fishery that was sustainable. It’s like a plot twist in an epic marine saga, where the heroes rise to protect what they love.

A co-management committee was established, and this innovative model is all about giving fishers an equal stake in how resources are managed. It’s a fresh approach, darlings, and by February 2024, the co-management model was approved with the support of more than 75% of license holders, representing over 700 fishermen in the Algarve. Talk about a community coming together!

Rodrigues believes that everyone has the right to raise an issue, and they have to address it as a community. It’s this patchwork of community initiatives that’s truly empowering the fishermen and women, showing that when different interests unite, incredible things can happen. Between me, my crew, the elephants and Zara the zebra and all her friends, we did something similar back home when the hyenas were getting a bit annoying and cheeky. Teamwork makes the dreamwork my friends! Just remember that, and we kicked their asses together!

Rodrigues pointed out rows of weather-beaten huts where fishermen store their gear. These huts, though decaying, symbolize the struggles of the small-scale fishing industry. I remember what he said because I recorded this bit on my phone in case I forgot my pen, which I did. "Marine Protected Areas have to be for the local community. If politicians just draw a square on the map and say 'this is a reserve' it won't work," he said. Wise words, indeed. 

 

From Hooves to Tentacles: A Giraffe's Hilarious Dive into Octopus Fashion

The rest of my short trip was a bit of a blur. I ended up on a fishing boat, and to cut a long story short, it kinda sunk because it couldn’t handle my weight. It was a bit embarrassing getting winched out of the harbour on a crane, and I won’t be including those pics on this blog, but what an eye-opening experience this was for me. I lost my phone too.

I won’t forget this Portugese adventure, but let’s not forget what these incredible people and octopuses are teaching us. They’re the ultimate icons of adaptability, teamwork, and sustainability. Here at LUC8K, we’re taking notes faster than an octopus can solve a Rubik’s cube. Our products aren’t just arm candy – they’re eight-armed inspiration candy.

So, next time you’re flaunting your LUC8K accessory, remember: you’re not just carrying a bag, you’re carrying the wisdom of the octopus and the sass of the Algarve fishers. It’s not just fashion, it’s a full-on marine conservation movement – with a side of style, of course.

 

LUC8K's infinity belt buckle rides giant wave

And before I sign off, let me share a little anecdote. Yours truly decided to get up close and personal with an octopus. Let’s just say, attempting a hoof-arm handshake with these eight-armed wonders isn’t exactly a stroke of genius. Before I knew it, I was sporting a new, vibrant "octopus ink blush" – talk about a marine makeover! Who needs contouring when you can rock the "freshly inked by cephalopod" look? It's the ultimate in ocean-inspired fashion! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to practice my octopus impression. Eight arms tohold my eight LUC8K bags. That’s what I call a fashion evolution, darlings! Hey, stay fabulous and sustainable, and remember, the ocean's secrets are always in style.

 

The big wide world is out there my friends. Now go grab it with your two wide open arms!

Big love, Sophie x

 

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