To Save or Serve the GPO
October 17, 2013 6:23 PM   Subscribe

This August, Washington state's Fish and Wildlife Commission banned giant Pacific octopus hunting (recreational harvesting) across seven popular scuba sites in the Puget Sound -- not because the species is endangered, but simply because the sea creature is revered by the Seattle community. The law went into effect on October 6. What triggered the ban? Therein lies a story. posted by zarq (51 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
I had no idea that people were allowed to hunt octopus in WA.
posted by thewalrus at 6:31 PM on October 17, 2013


When I start my own country, our currency and departmental seals will be adorned with these magnificent creatures. They'll also be the national bird.
posted by Chutzler at 6:42 PM on October 17, 2013 [28 favorites]


That's fantastic! I mean, if people are spending their time "saving" species that don't need saving, it must mean that rockfish, humpback whales, sea turtles, various salmon, and killer whales aren't endangered anymore, right?

sigh.
posted by koeselitz at 6:43 PM on October 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Anybody who can fight a nine-foot octopus and kill it with his bare hands deserves to eat it.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:49 PM on October 17, 2013 [30 favorites]


Ah. I spent a minute trying to figure out why anybody would be hunting the Government Printing Office in the first place. (Except maybe the Tea Party -- seems like the sort of thing they'd enjoy.)
posted by McCoy Pauley at 6:58 PM on October 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah. I say mad props to the kid who fights a fucking nine-foot underwater creature with his bare hands. It wasn't endangered, and that's pretty bad-ass. This probably makes me a terrible vegan, though.
posted by kaibutsu at 7:04 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


That is a big fucking octopus.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:12 PM on October 17, 2013


The hunter in this story is basically the coolest and nicest guy ever - nice to a fault. He should not have to apologize for hunting a plentiful and safe animal legally with a permit. And the way he goes to great lengths to try to justify his opponents by saying that he totally understands that some people are just disturbed to be exposed to the fact that some hunting might happen near public beaches is... well. Basically, he comes off as the hero of this crazy story, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 7:15 PM on October 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah. I say mad props to the kid who fights a fucking nine-foot underwater creature with his bare hands.

AND THEN shows up at the meeting of The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission and speaks in front of a potentially hostile and angry crowd.

What magnificent balls!
posted by louche mustachio at 7:17 PM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


What magnificent balls!

And if you can beat him in a fair fight, you're entitled to eat them!
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:18 PM on October 17, 2013 [26 favorites]


I was 9 growing up in Snohomish WA, less than an hour from Seattle in those days.

Our closest neighbor had three sons, Marty [who used to sneak smokes from his mom's purse], Pat, and "little streaker".

They also had a bull named Pete. Pete would tolerate a whole pile of kids climbing on his back without even turning his head. In fact he used to follow us. He would lick you, his tounge as wide as your chest, leaving a big gooey green mess. I suppose he needed salt.

Anyway, the day came and a man arrived and with several shots from a small caliber rifle killed Pete. All of us kids bawled. It was terrible.

I still eat meat but I'm careful to know that it comes from animals.
posted by vapidave at 7:22 PM on October 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


We learned our lesson from hunting the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus almost to extinction. Cascadians are very protective of our cephalopod mollusks now.
posted by perhapsolutely at 7:22 PM on October 17, 2013 [13 favorites]


He should not have to apologize for hunting a plentiful and safe animal legally with a permit.

I don't think he should have to apologize, but I'm pretty good with making this illegal. Octopuses are very intelligent and for me hunting them is over the line into not cool/most dangerous game territory. I know my feelings aren't really a good thing on which to base the law* but everyone's got a line of what isn't and isn't okay and this is over mine. For some people you can kill mosquitoes/flies but nothing else, for some people it's only okay to kill for food, for some people the line is drawn at cats and dogs; there's no one consistent line but for me octopuses are smart and aware enough that I'm pro not hunting them.

*False. My feelings are a great thing on which to base the law.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:24 PM on October 17, 2013 [25 favorites]


I think that protecting some lower-risk things from getting endangered in the first place is not a bad plan to start with, and also helps get people thinking about the reasons for doing stuff like this. Sometimes the things we like eating need special protections or else there is going to come a point where nobody gets to eat them again. Atlantic cod stocks are not, last I heard, recovering admirably.

Now, since you've chopped the trees to the ground, there's not enough Truffula fruit to go 'round...

Yeah, maybe we should start examining these things before we've gone too far.
posted by Sequence at 7:25 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can sorta understand not wanting to have hunting at recreational spots, public dive sites or public beaches or such. So I'm glad they didn't go any farther than that. Reads like you can still hunt all the GPOs you want, just as long as it's not at these specific seven sites.

Which is fine, because octopus is delicious.
posted by kafziel at 7:26 PM on October 17, 2013


Koeselitz, that's not how conservation really works - the biggest bang for the buck is protecting habitat, not "saving" the animals themselves. Rockfish live in kelp forests; protecting the octopus habitat means protecting the kelp means protecting the rockfish. So in theory, "saving" the octopus means "saving" the rockfish.

But that leads into one of the main reasons this is problematic - stopping divers from hunting and eating animals (even threatened ones, even smart ones whose charismatic image has been carefully nurtured by conservation groups' publicity campaigns) is not going to protect their habitat, not even from the relatively small problem of having divers and boats all over it all the time. Certainly not from pollution, water alterations from climate change, and depredation by invasive species.

And it's going to give ammunition to stupid people who think all conservation efforts are about tender feelings towards wet-eyed baby seals.

But I eat just about everything and I won't eat octopus because they look at me too wisely.
posted by gingerest at 7:29 PM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


And if you can beat him in a fair fight, you're entitled to eat them!


If he can beat up a nine foot cephalopod, he most certainly could whup my ass.





Fortunatley.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:32 PM on October 17, 2013


Yeah, octopodes are over the line for me, kinda like dolphin and primates. Ate octopus as a kid but I've since learned that they're pretty damned intelligent and kinda cool and now I won't touch it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:34 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, octopus is way too close to eating another sentient being for my liking.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:51 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


... rockfish, humpback whales, sea turtles, various salmon, and killer whales...

So in theory, "saving" the octopus means "saving" the rockfish.


Yeah, we are certainly enamored of our apex predators and flashy critters. Anytime I hear "save the whales" I want to do a face palm and mention how we're screwing with their habitat and messin' with the itty witty lil' ugly critters they eat.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:55 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a little fuzzy on why he wanted an octopus in the first place. Just because? He doesn't seem like he's particularly interested in eating it.
posted by GuyZero at 7:58 PM on October 17, 2013


Having a large urban coastal community express a bit of reverence for its native sea life of any kind should be regarded as a step forward. The slightly sneering and urbane tone (complete with recipes and in the Food and Drink section no less) taken by the NYT article pisses me right off.
Go Seattle.
posted by islander at 7:58 PM on October 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


And when they peeled the octopus off his face, they found in sucker-printed dot matrix script

NO KILL I
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:27 PM on October 17, 2013 [11 favorites]


The kid doing the hunting wasn't actually very nice, and the the issue wasn't protecting the GPO, the issue was that dive sites in Seattle are effectigely public parks. It's like someone coming along and uprooting the bushes and peeing on the swingset. Cove 2 is Seattle's MOST popular dive site, and it would be very easy for one person to totally denude it of one of the pacific's most spectacular animals in a week.

I'd add that Dylan, while he has cleaned up his act immensely, didn't start out very innocent. A very well-known and well-liked divemaster saw him exiting Cove 2 with the GPO, and (paraphrasing) basically said, hey, people come here to see those animals, it's a jerk move to hunt them here. He was met with a bunch of verbal abuse.

The divemaster may not have started the encounter particularly politely, I have no idea, but neither side handled the situation well.

Nobody in the dive community wanted a total ban on hunting GPOs, but one of the great unwritten rules in most dive communities is that you don't hunt at popular dive sites.

The new rules just make that unwritten rule explicit.

Nobody here is a hero, or even a villain, the NYTimes article is just very poorly written.
posted by fnerg at 8:42 PM on October 17, 2013 [16 favorites]


I don't see anything wrong with hunting and eating octopuses, but it seems a line should be drawn at beating it to death over 25 minutes.
posted by stavrogin at 8:44 PM on October 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another fun detail, the kid didn't wrestle the octo out of the hole. He brought metal rods, annoyed the octo out of the hole, and grabbed it while it was out in the open and relatively helpless.

There are plenty of videos of freedivers hunting GPOs, which is way more macho if you ask me. When they're out in the open, they don't want to wrestle, they just want to run away.
posted by fnerg at 8:47 PM on October 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Huh, I read about this locally last year, never would have expected it to show up in the NYT or on MeFi. I'm a diver, I've dived Seacrest Park (where Mayer took the octopus) a number of times. As is mentioned in several of the articles, the spot is heavily used by divers and is pretty much a petting zoo for marine life. Hunting anything there is roughly the equivalent of taking a deer down in a city park with a Bowie knife - even if it's an impressive feat and perfectly legal (and on preview, fnerg is right, freedive hunting of GPOs is closer to that than what Mayer did), you're harming the other users of the park who come there to watch the deer, and the optics on it are really bad. The ban on taking anything from Seacrest and other local dive spots makes a lot of sense, and it's good that they codified what was essentially an unwritten rule.

Also, Mayer's posts to local forums suggested that he did in fact eat some of the octopus. Given that Seacrest is right at the mouth of the Duwamish river, which remains a pretty nasty stew of bioaccumulative toxins like heavy metals and PCBs, he didn't do himself any favors there. I wouldn't eat anything that came out of the water around there.
posted by hackwolf at 8:53 PM on October 17, 2013 [14 favorites]


hackwolf's analogy is spot on. These dive sites are where people go to learn to love diving and sea life. Hunting charismatic fauna there just seems incredibly rude to everyone even if it doesn't actually endanger any species.
posted by R343L at 9:58 PM on October 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Octopus live for 2 years at most and spawn several hundred eggs. Dolphins and other mammals eat them, so I guess I will continue to do so.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:31 PM on October 17, 2013


I assume the folks who won't eat octopus because octopi are too intelligent feel similarly about pigs.
posted by eugenen at 1:44 AM on October 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


The ban on taking anything from Seacrest and other local dive spots makes a lot of sense, and it's good that they codified what was essentially an unwritten rule.

I went to Lincoln park (in West Seattle) with my kids this past summer. On Wednesday mornings (IIRC) there was a marine biologist there who was leading walks along the beach and explaining all of the flora and fauna at the water's edge which was very interesting. My seven year old started collecting shells and the biologist stopped her and said that the whole park was a nature reserve and it wasn't permitted to take anything from nature from the beach, but that she was welcome to collect trash - which was a bit a letdown for the kids - but solid and good advice.

(My daughter said later that she couldn't wait to get back to Sweden, because there were too many rules in America!)
posted by three blind mice at 3:19 AM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, Mayer's posts to local forums suggested that he did in fact eat some of the octopus.

And that makes it OK to kill an animal for fun? Because that's what this was. If you're hankering for octopus there are plenty of sushi restaurants in and around Seattle.

I say mad props to the kid who fights a fucking nine-foot underwater creature with his bare hands.

I got nothing against eating animals, but I despise hunters because they derive enjoyment from the act of killing. Commercial fisherman take no joy in the hunt; they kill animals to earn a living and there ain't no fun in it. I'm OK with that. There's no blood-lust involved. The guy who kills for sport has a problem and eating the meat doesn't take the sport out of it.
posted by three blind mice at 3:36 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


From a conservation point of view, that's pretty backwards. Market hunting and commercial fishing is incredibly destructive to ecosystems and species. Sport hunting and fishing, in comparison, is mostly benign. Yeah, ok, sport hunting makes you feel icky. But the actual impact on living creatures is dramatically lower.
posted by ryanrs at 4:55 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


What about herd management through sport hunting? Deer would quickly outbreed their range and become (more of) a nuisance without the managed hunting of them, normally for food. I've grown up with hunting deer and every hunter I know enjoys hunting, but they also respect the animal that they are taking and make sure to use it completely. They also see the death of single animals as a means of ensuring the survival and health of the herd as a whole wheras if they were allowed to breed uncontrollably they would quickly outgrow their food supply and many would starve over the winter anyways. Better to thin the herd before winter so most can survive and make use of the ones you take than to just let many slowly starve to death and die and rot in the woods. We've killed the apex predators so now we must replace their role in herd maintenance. I do understand your squick feeling about certain sport hunters though. I don't understand the ones that head to africa and go on a bush safari just to shoot antelope and take their head home. There isn't any respect there and I tend to think that this case is much more like the squicky sport hunters than the good sport hunters.
posted by koolkat at 5:08 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Trophy hunting is different. But I don't think trophy hunting is even a "thing" in North America. It is a very small part of hunting culture here.
posted by ryanrs at 5:13 AM on October 18, 2013


It is? Like, really? I ask out of ignorance, cause I sure see a lot of taxidermy here in America, and that always implies hunting for impressive specimens, to me.
posted by agregoli at 6:33 AM on October 18, 2013


After reading a number of the articles I'm pretty impressed with this kid. Not so much the hunting-and-killing, but the fact that he seems completely not defensive, fairly apologetic, and quite intelligent about the whole affair. He's able to circle the issue, and his role in it, and articulate the problem (beyond "a kid killed an octopus and some people don't like that") better, it seems than other actors involved.
posted by entropone at 6:42 AM on October 18, 2013


I assume the folks who won't eat octopus because octopi are too intelligent feel similarly about pigs.

On the one hand your logic is sound. On the other hand bacon.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 8:50 AM on October 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


> "I assume the folks who won't eat octopus because octopi are too intelligent feel similarly about pigs."

Yes, I do. So I don't eat them either.
posted by kyrademon at 9:23 AM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was all set to have the tree octopus be a joke on the rubes, like the jackalope. Then I clicked the link, and -- what?

But ... Really?

Never mind.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:23 AM on October 18, 2013


Trust your instincts, Keith Gerson.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:32 AM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


FYI, Lincoln Park is one of a few marine reserves in the Seattle area, and the Seacrest diving area is not. I refer you to this page. There are plenty of places on the Sound where shell collecting is totally OK; Seacrest would be one of those.

And that makes it OK to kill an animal for fun?

I didn't say that, or imply that, anywhere in my comment. In fact, my point was that Mayer didn't do himself any favors by eating it because the bottom sediment at Seacrest is very likely loaded with heavy metals and PCBs. There are warnings out against eating anything from that part of Puget Sound, although not everybody pays attention to them. That statement makes no judgement about the morality of Mayer's actions. Personally, I don't eat octopi and would not hunt them because I do have moral issues with that. Other people have other moral standards, and I'm OK with that too. In my opinion, the laws here should be focused on protecting the environment and the ecosystem.

If you're hankering for octopus there are plenty of sushi restaurants in and around Seattle.

And yet, if you're going to eat an octopus, somebody's going to have to harvest it first, even if you're not doing it yourself. On the other hand, killing it prior to eating may be optional. So much for the sushi restaurant being less cruel...

I despise hunters because they derive enjoyment from the act of killing

Ah, OK. You seem to have a serious misunderstanding of what hunting is about for a lot of people and I doubt we have anything constructive to say to each other.
posted by hackwolf at 11:31 AM on October 18, 2013


tree octopus

I want to believe.
posted by panaceanot at 4:51 PM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


LobsterMitten: Trust your instincts, Keith Gerson.

You shut yo mouth.

It's on the interwebs; that means it's true.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:07 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


ryanrs: "Trophy hunting is different. But I don't think trophy hunting is even a 'thing' in North America. It is a very small part of hunting culture here."

agregoli: "It is? Like, really? I ask out of ignorance, cause I sure see a lot of taxidermy here in America, and that always implies hunting for impressive specimens, to me."

Er - you see "a lot of taxidermy" here? I guess I'm wondering what that means, exactly, because this is not my experience at all, and I grew up (as I said above) in a place where hunting tourism was the major industry - specifically, in the mountains of Western Colorado. I have seen taxidermy stuff around, almost always on the walls of ski lodges and steak restaurants; but these examples of taxidermy are invariably antiques, not contemporary pieces. I don't think I've ever seen a piece of taxidermy live that was less than thirty years old. Most places, it's pretty much a dead art. I've known many dozens of hunters in my lifetime, and to a person every single one of them figured it was kind of creepy and not quite right to keep and display a dead animal in your home after killing it. There was no taxidermist in my hometown; in fact, I have never actually met an honest-to-god taxidermist in my life, and I lived in the rural and semi-rural West for half my life. Chuck Testa is, in fact, the first contemporary taxidermist I've been aware of - and, as I say, I know a lot of hunters and hunting-related people. My own mother works for the Colorado Division of Wildlife issuing hunting licenses and helping hunters know the proper protocols; one of their biggest jobs is disposal of carcasses, because people sure as hell aren't taking those things home.

I am not endorsing or decrying it - and to be perfectly clear I am absolutely not a hunter myself - but it seems as though the present hunting culture would like to see itself as a culture of knowing how to humanely and respectfully kill. To most hunters, even those who purely do it for sport, I think the idea of having a dead animal carcass on display at home seems a bit gauche and haughty. Those ski lodges and restaurants do it because they're going for an "old-timey Colorado feel;" but the whole reason it feels old-timey is because pretty much nobody really does it now.
posted by koeselitz at 9:15 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


(I'm open to the possibility that my experience is unique and doesn't reflect the experience of others, though.)
posted by koeselitz at 9:20 AM on October 19, 2013


but the whole reason it feels old-timey is because pretty much nobody really does it now.
Taxidermy is now estimated to be a five-hundred-and-seventy-million-dollar annual business, made up of small operators around the country who mount animals for museums, for decorators, and mostly for the thirteen million or so Americans who are recreational hunters and on occasion want to preserve and display something they killed and who are willing to shell out anywhere from two hundred dollars to mount a pheasant to several thousand for a kudu or a grizzly bear. There are state and regional taxidermy competitions throughout the year and the world championships, which are held every other year; two trade magazines; a score of taxidermy schools; and three thousand visits to Taxidermy.net every day, where taxidermists can trade information and goods with as little self-consciousness as you would find on a knitting Web site
That's from 2003 - a niche interest, but not "nobody"...
posted by mdn at 9:48 AM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess it'd be interesting to try to figure out how prevalent it is in terms of proportion across the industry. I wonder if it's geographically specific - I'll bet it is.
posted by koeselitz at 10:33 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know hunters who have the occasional kill mounted but with deer at least it's something that is done as an adjunct to hunting for food.
posted by Mitheral at 10:39 AM on October 19, 2013


Now that I think of it, I know some people who've had fish mounted. Not sure if that counts as hunting, but I guess it probably should.
posted by koeselitz at 1:16 PM on October 19, 2013


There's also a weird semi- hipster gothy- morbid-artsy stream of interest. That's probably a super minor portion of involved parties, but it exists.
posted by mdn at 2:15 PM on October 19, 2013


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