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Originally published Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 9:07 PM

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State to consider limits on octopus harvesting

After a giant Pacific octopus was caught in a popular dive site in West Seattle, the state Department of Fish & Wildlife said it will consider a ban on octopus harvesting near popular Seattle beaches, and perhaps elsewhere.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Washington state Department of Fish & Wildlife announced Thursday that it will consider bans on octopus harvesting near popular Seattle beaches and possibly other areas in Puget Sound.

Dylan Mayer, the octopus hunter who sparked an outrage when he took one of the charismatic animals at Cove 2, a popular dive site in West Seattle, was the first voice for a ban on hunting in the cove at a public hearing before the state Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Olympia.

"I didn't know they were so beloved, or I wouldn't have done it," he told the commission, according to a news release issued by state Wildlife on Thursday.

Mayer, 19, of Maple Valley, said he didn't realize the cove was regarded informally as a park by divers and that people would be upset if he took one of the octopuses that divers flock to the cove to see.

Wildlife director Phil Anderson said the department will consider new rules to preserve the population of giant Pacific octopus at Seacrest Park, ranging from designating the park a marine protected area to prohibiting hunting giant Pacific octopus anywhere in the state.

GPO, as divers call them, are the largest octopus species in the world. All of the divers who spoke at the commission meeting supported new restrictions. An online petition calling for a ban on hunting at the park garnered 5,000 signatures in five days.

Scott Lundy, a photographer and diver, was at the cove when Mayer surfaced and was seen punching the octopus.

He said about 30 to 40 people showed up in Olympia for a morning hearing Thursday to voice their opinion that hunting should not occur in the cove.

Today giant Pacific octopus can be hunted year round with a state shellfish license. The limit is one per day.

Some think that is way too many, in a place like Cove 2 with just a few known giant Pacific octopuses that people come from all over the nation and even the world to see, Lundy said.

While many of the divers called for an immediate ban on hunting at the park, that's not done unless there is a conservation issue at stake, and octopus populations are regarded to be healthy.

However, Anderson noted that if another octopus is taken from the area, the department may consider emergency measures. Otherwise, it will follow its usual process of analysis, which could take months.

Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or lmapes@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @lyndavmapes.

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