In a tragedy of epic proportions, a young diver successfully hunted and killed an octopus last Wednesday. The media coverage that followed blew the issue out of proportion.
Dylan Mayer, a 19-year-old Maple Valley resident, caught a giant Pacific octopus from Cove Two of Alki Beach in Seattle. Soon after, diving instructor Bob Bailey took pictures of Mayer with the dead octopus and posted them online, sparking uproar in the diving community, according to the Seattle Times.
Since then, various local and statewide news outlets have picked up the story and local dive shops have received calls from outraged marine enthusiasts demanding they never again sell supplies to Mayer. Mayer and his family have also received threats online and over the phone.
We have bigger problems in the greater Seattle area than shellfish wrestling. Consider that while angry divers rallied against Mayer, a trucker was killed in a car crash on Interstate 5, a man was beaten to death in Covington, a North Seattle Community College student reported being raped in the bathroom and a Burien woman was injured in a hit-and-run.
Simply put, there are bigger fish we need to fry.
Mayer claims he acted well within his legal rights, and a visit to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website supports this. As long as the specimen is caught by hand, no chemical irritants are used and the hunter does not exceed the limit of one catch per day, the hunt is lawful.
Mayer’s expedition was textbook- a classic, good-old-fashioned octopus hunt.
Anyone who has a problem with the law needs to make change through legal avenues instead of directing their frustration at the people who follow that law.
Concerned parties are now petitioning to make Cove Two a state park, which would protect the resident marine wildlife from hunters. I support this idea because the law clearly needs to catch up with public sentiment regarding Cove Two.
However, taking this sentiment out on a single fisherman acting within his legal rights because he violated an unspoken diving-culture norm, is not a constructive solution.
Bailey said the fury directed at Mayer stems from the fact that hunting octopus in Cove Two “is just not done,” according to KOMO News.
There is also a greater hypocrisy at play among the fuming diving community. Octopi are considered informally off-limits because they are intelligent and enigmatic, two qualities that fascinate people.
Pigs are the sixth most intelligent species, according to Animal Planet, but that didn’t make my bacon any less delicious this morning. However, since pigs are not put on the same pedestal as octopi- that, by the way, are considerably less intelligent- pork isn’t considered a taboo meat.
The grandeur of the giant Pacific octopus lies in how humans perceive it, not in the qualities inherent to the species.
Hopefully this incident is constructive in the long run, and Cove 2 obtains state park status. Eliminating the gray area between illegal and “just not done,” can help us avoid similar black holes sucking time and energy in the future.
Meanwhile, let’s try to keep some perspective on the situation. Contrary to what the public outcry might indicate, worse things happened last week.