Hunting of Giant Pacific Octopus Sparks Giant Pacific Outcry

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For scuba divers off Seattle’s Cove 2, one of the coolest sightings they might fortunate enough to enjoy is that of a giant Pacific octopus, an intelligent and mysterious creature that is a master of disguise.

And apparently, one of the most uncool acts is to capture and kill one of these remarkable creatures at Cove 2, especially while other scuba divers are present.

That’s what Dylan Miller, 19, did during a recent dive, and the episode went viral, with critics surfacing on dive sites, blogs and social media platforms, hammering Miller even though he had a fishing license and did not violate any laws.

He said he killed the 80-pound octopus to draw it for an art project, and for its meat. But he has since received threats and, like an octopus, is trying to keep a low profile.

“They value the life of an octopus and they are threatening a family,” Denise Mayer, Dylan’s mom, told the Seattle Times. “They put his life below that of an octopus. It’s gone way overboard.”

The story first appeared on the Northwest Dive Club website on the day of the capture, on Halloween.

A witness posted that Miller not only grabbed the octopus and hauled it out of the water, he punched the mollusk and in the head, or mantle area, and bragged that he might be back for more.

The blogger, under the name Grateful Diver, stated that during his confrontation with Miller, Miller boasted: “It’s legal, and there’s lots of them down there. I might come back tomorrow and get another one.”

Divers were so enraged that they created a petition to “Save the GPO” from being harvested in the region, as the giant Pacific octopus is regarded as an icon of the Pacific Northwest.

The Daily Mail in the U.K. quoted witness Bob Bailey as saying, “It’s just not done. It’s bad form. Even if you can do it, you shouldn’t do it.”

The giant Pacific octopus is the world’s largest octopus. The largest known specimen measured 30 feet across.

The mollusks are known for their ability to change colors and blend with their surroundings, and for their intelligence. Captive specimens have learned to open jars and solve puzzles.

Cove 2 divers regard their site as a marine park, where creatures should be observed and not captured, even though it’s not officially designated as a protected park.

A Washington state game warden investigated the case and determined no laws were broken.

Denise Mayer said the home telephone has been ringing so often that she answers with the greeting, “Octo-Mom.”

Mayer told the Seattle Times that he punched the giant mollusk because it had wrapped its arms around his mask, nose and mouth. (State law mandates that the only way octopuses can be harvested is by hand, an extreme challenge when that specimen weighs 80 pounds.)

“I do feel sorry,” Mayer said. “If I would have known that these people were that protective over it, I wouldn’t have done it.”

But, he added: “If people feel this strongly about it they obviously need to voice it and a sign needs to go up and make it a park. But I don’t think all of Puget Sound should be off-limits. That is like saying you like deer so there should be no hunting, or you like cows, so there should be no meat.”

–Images of Dylan Miller with his giant Pacific octopus are courtesy of Mark S., via Rapture of the Deep(first and third image) and Northwest Dive Club

In affiliation with GrindTV

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{ 8 comments…read them below or write one }

  • Jonathan

    Not sure how ethics come into play. Was it a legal fish? Yes, apparently. Like the kid says, if people feel strongly enough that this particular species should not be hunted, let them lobby the appropriate regulatory agency. Unless there are ecological subissues being ignored by a state agency, the species is apparently robust enough to sustain a harvest.

  • Vladimir

    what he did was legal , its just at the wring time and in the wrong place , maybe next time just dont show it to PETA (people for the ethical treatment of animals) loving people ….im also a (PETA) People Eating Tasty Animals , supporter and i wish you could have share some of that meat with me hmmmuh love the calamari …

  • Nicole

    Wow, it’s a sad day when it’s okay to buy hormone-soaked meat at the grocery store, but you can’t eat off the land.

  • Beren

    So, are all these people equally “outraged” at the over-fishing of other, more threatened species? I doubt they’re out picketing sushi restaurants or advocating on behalf of the Blue Fin Tuna. People love to get all bent about something that happens in their own backyard, meanwhile being indifferent about much larger issues.

  • Chris

    I’m a West Seattle resident, and part of the problem is that when confronted and questioned – in person and online in the local neighborhood news forum – Miller comes off belligerent, cocky, and asinine (he is 19 after all). His attitude sucked (and still does). If he had been more conciliatory, and even just appear to be more receptive to comments, this probably wouldn’t have received the press it has, and he would have been able to go on with minimal impact. Instead several dive shops have banned him from their businesses, at least one dive school has refused him admission for a rescue diver certification course, and he’s reportedly lost his job.
    Local links regarding this:
    http://westseattleblog.com/2012/11/beloved-but-unprotected-octopus-harvest-at-seacrest-brings-calls-for-protection
    http://westseattleblog.com/forum/topic/rant-octo-hunting-in-cove-2

  • Mike

    The man broke no laws and hunted in a legal manner.

    If some animal rights person got in my face, right after I successfully hunted…I’d be put off as well.

    This man has done nothing wrong…

  • Darren

    I think the bigger picture here – and what hasn’t been brought up specifically – is that scuba diving in the Pac Northwest is popular and alluring BECAUSE of the presence of giant Pacific octopi; they are the main draw for divers there; the icon of diving in Pac NW (as the article says). And certain areas are extremely well known for that; sites that have become institutions. So when one takes an octopus from an area that divers go to specifically to see them, outrage ensues. Legal or not, taking them from areas like Cove 2 become unethical because you’re taking something from a community that has a very specific emotional investment there: diving with octopi.

    Sure he’s done nothing wrong. It’s the WAY he did it. And yes, he’s only 19 (a kid, basically) and clearly didn’t think it through or imagine the ramifications (as he stated). However, he’s a certified diver (presumably) and hopefully he was taught by his instructor to have a certain amount of respect for the dive community as well as the species that make up the main reason why we dive. Unfortunately, the lesson didn’t sink in until now.

    One thing is for certain, Dylan Miller will not be getting many new dive buddies any time soon.

    And, by the way, giant Pacific octopi typically aren’t harvested mainly because they just don’t taste very good: not nearly the same as the little Mediterranean ones we usually get at the markets and very, very different from calamari (market squid). You don’t see “fried giant Pac octo & chips” on a menu.

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