"You look them in the eye and they are definitely looking back at you. They understand things. Here, we get octopus the size of cars. You are staring at a big, giant animal and they are looking right back. They have personalities; some of them will tolerate you, some are curious. Some, if you stick a light in their face, will try to take it away from you."~Washington dive instructor Bob BaileyThe hunting and killing of a giant Pacific octopus in the waters of Puget Sound (video here) has galvanized the local Washington diving community. Like the story covered in my post of exactly 1 year ago (see Regrettable ride), the outrage was prompted by the posting of photos online (image above, slideshow here). But unlike the earlier incident, this one was not illegal. The sizable* creature was not poached. Diver Dylan Mayer, 19, was not breaking any ordinances, had a valid shellfish license, and claims he harvested the octopus for food. His faux pas was in his timing and visibility ("I think the timing, manner and place where the harvest occurred may be the issue. It could have been done at a better time. It's like deer hunting. You don't kill a deer while kids are viewing it, and I think it's a similar problem here. You need to be sensitive to other drivers and people if you're going to be a sportsman," says game warden Wendy Willette), and his attitude (he tossed the animal into the back of his pickup, where it continued to writhe, and witnesses say he was unconcerned whether it was a female protecting her eggs). Some of the outrage has been directed at Mayer, who has received death threats and has been banned from area dive shops and dive schools. Others have taken the opportunity to lobby the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to designate Cove 2 a new Marine Protected Area (see map here), an idea supported by the Seattle Aquarium.
*Its large size does not indicate great age, since the lifespan of octopuses is 3-5 years.