Environment
5:07 pm
Sun November 4, 2012

Killing of Puget Sound octopus for 'art project' angers divers

Originally published on Sun November 4, 2012 4:15 pm

A different kind of storm hit the Pacific Northwest this past week when a local diver was seen hauling a giant Pacific octopus from a popular diving area in Puget Sound in Seattle.

The diver, 20-year-old Dylan Mayer, had a one-day hunting license and legally did nothing wrong. However, divers from around the world are infuriated by Mayer's actions. Part of the problem is that this particular area in Seattle, Cove 2, is regarded as a pristine park. Divers go there in hopes of observing the giant Pacific octopus, which is considered very intelligent, agile and has the ability to change colors to match its surroundings. It is not a creature that is usually hunted.

"It's just not done. It's bad form. Even if you can do it, you shouldn't," Bob Bailey, who witnessed Mayer bringing the octopus ashore, said to the UK's Daily Mail. Bailey also said that Mayer punched the octopus several times as he was dragging it ashore, and that it was still alive when Mayer dumped it in the back of his pickup truck.

The other issue with hunting an octopus in Cove 2 is that if it is female, it could very well be guarding its eggs. Whether the octopus in question was male or female is in dispute, however, and Mayer has repeatedly said he saw no eggs when he captured the creature.

Mayer defended his actions. He told the Seattle Times that he had punched the octopus in self-defense because it had wrapped its tentacles around his mask, nose and mouth and that he couldn't breathe. As for why he hunted the cephalopod in the first place, Mayer said he wanted to capture it, "to draw it for this art project, and eat it for meat."

The story went viral after one of the witnesses to the octopus' capture wrote about his hostile confrontation with Mayer on the Northwest Dive Club news site. In the posting the writer called on local dive shops not to refill Mayer's oxygen tanks or sell him further diving gear. The website also posted some pictures of Mayer with the octopus and it was these photos that began spreading on the Internet and flared the controversy. The matter escalated further when Mayer himself posted photographs of his catch on his Facebook page.

Apparently, Mayer's family has since been bombarded with less-than-friendly phone calls and dive shops that Mayer patronized have banned him.

At least one person has decided to use the incident as a force for change. Northwest Dive News owner and publisher, Rick Stratton, has started a petition to make Cove 2 a state Marine Protected Area, which would prevent all hunting.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.