By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
They are mysterious, majestic – and largely unprotected. Now the status of the Giant Pacific Octopus has come to light – harsh light – because of an incident here in West Seattle, but it’s a light that might also lead the way to overdue protection.
WSB Forums members have been talking about it for a day, divers’ discussion boards have been spreading it like wildfire, and citywide media has picked it up too – an outrage-sparking saga from the popular diving area off Seacrest – known as Cove 2 – involving someone “harvesting” an octopus that was originally reported to be a female guarding eggs.
If you haven’t heard about this yet – here’s a basic version of the original report, on a personal website. The citywide media reports include one from our partners at The Seattle Times today, and a story by KING5.com last night.
While some of the discussion has centered on the alleged braggadocio of the diver who took the octopus – and someone claiming to be him has been posting in the WSB Forums thread, denying that it was a female – others have focused on this question: How can this be made illegal, so that it can’t happen – legally – again? That’s what we looked into
Right now, state Department of Fish and Wildlife rules say it’s legal to “harvest” an octopus (if licensed, and per a daily limit) just about anywhere – except for Marine Protected Areas (here’s a map). As the map shows, there are some in West Seattle – Schmitz and Richey Viewpoints off Beach Drive. The state law regulating protected areas is here.
The first person from whom we heard about this, award-winning environmental advocate and diver Laura James, expected a petition drive to be started to designate the popular diving area off Seacrest as a protected area.
And that’s one way to make it happen, we found out when we called WDFW to ask what is required to get an area designated as a protected area. Spokesperson Craig Bartlett provided a raft of information – and told us that the department is also looking into the issue. Bartlett noted that in his 13 years with the department, he didn’t realize till this came up that the octopus is unprotected.
According to Bartlett, “There are two ways citizens can petition the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for a change in fishing rules: 1) fill out a petition form at http://www.ofm.wa.gov/reports/petition.pdf and send it to the commission or 2) attend a commission meeting and testify during a public comment period.” There’s a meeting coming up next Thursday and Friday, he notes – the calendar is here, and the agendas for both mornings show public-input periods. (You would have to go to Olympia, however.)
We also have asked Seattle Parks for comment on the possibility of protecting the waters at Seacrest; since it’s a city park, it seems as if they might have some jurisdiction. We’ll add that reply when we get it.
10:07 PM UPDATE: As Diver Laura (James) has pointed out in comments, a petition is now up and running online – find it here.