Mark Saiget
A diver confronted a 19-year-old octopus hunter at Cove 2 in West Seattle on Halloween Day, 2012. In the coming weeks, Washington Fish and Wildlife officials will hold public meetings to consider banning octopus hunting in select locations, including sections off Alki Beach.

Wildlife Commission mulls octopus hunting options; public meetings upcoming

The debate sparked instantaneously on Halloween Day, 2012, when a 19-year-old man emerged from Cove 2 on Alki with a female giant Pacific octopus in his arms. He was confronted by two divers who use the access point to watch wildlife, not catch and harvest, and they quickly shared photos of the hunt with any news organization that would listen.

Public meeting times are found at the bottom of the story, including one at the Seattle Aquarium on April 24.

The debate that ensued was not based in legality, but on the question of taste. The young hunter was perfectly legal in his harvest of the octopus: entering the popular dive spot just west of the Water Taxi dock with a current shellfish permit, banging two rods together to annoy the creature and draw it out of it’s cove, then grabbing and bringing it to the surface where he and a friend began hitting it in the head to kill it (as it is illegal to pierce them with a sharp object). To some it was cruel, but it was a legitimate hunt from start to finish.

Outrage from the Seattle dive community was fierce, based on the location's popularity for divers interested in viewing, not hunting Elliot Bay wildlife. Several hundred people sent three petitions to Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, in charge of setting hunting and fishing policy, asking that the area near Alki Point be deemed a Marine Preserve where no recreational harvest is allowed.

The 19-year-old hunter, identified as Dylan Mayer in a Seattle Times profile, said he had no idea his hunt would create such a furor. He also said he has been eating the meat and sharing it with friends.

WDFW has been tracking the debate and potential solutions ever since, and has come up with four potential solutions (from their press release):

Option A: Status quo – no changes to current regulations.

Option B: Marine Preserve – no recreational harvest of all species
• Redondo Beach

* Option C: Marine Preserves – no recreational harvest of Giant Pacific Octopuses
• Redondo Beach
• Three Tree Point North
• Seacrest Park Coves 1, 2 and 3 (excluding fishing pier)
• Les Davis
• Alki Beach Junk Yard
• Days Island Wall
• Deception Pass

Option D: Puget Sound closure to recreational harvest of Giant Pacific Octopuses.

* The beaches listed under Option C were identified by the advisory group as some of the most popular diving beaches in the Puget Sound area. Not included on that list are beaches in Conservation Areas or Marine Preserves, where octopuses are already off-limits to harvest.

Public Meetings and Public Comments
WDFW will conduct two public meeting in April to solicit public comments on the four management options described above. The department also invites written comments submitted online through May 31. The public meetings are scheduled:

April 23, 2013 from 6 – 8 p.m.
City of Port Townsend, Cotton Building
407 Water Street
Port Townsend, WA 98368

April 24, 2013 from 6 – 8 p.m.
Seattle Aquarium
1483 Alaska Way, Pier 59
Seattle, WA 98101

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