Last November, as you may recall, the city of Seattle collectively blew a gasket when a 19 year-old wrestled a giant Pacific octopus out of the water and into the back of his pickup truck.
Histrionic concerned citizens blew an extra gasket when they realized his hunt was fully legal. Fisherfolk are allowed to take one GPO per day and, because of a strange convergence of environmental regulations, they must take it "by hand or by instrument which will not penetrate or mutilate the body"—wrestling it out of the water is dangerous (GPOs have been known to attack divers and might be responsible for some deaths), but totally fair game.
Earlier this month, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife implemented a new policy to protect GPOs at a few popular diving sites and everybody moved on with their lives. But the New York Times has published a great story about the young octopus hunter—with a lovely photo of chef Matt Dillon preparing octopus at Bar Sajor—that might knock your outrage down a few notches:
He wasn’t much of a chef, but he had experience foraging for his dinner. Mayer had attended a high school known for its Future Farmers of America program; he also knew how to slaughter cows and castrate bulls. Now he was going to community college, where he was asked to draw something from nature. He figured that he might as well eat it too...
The giant Pacific octopus was curled inside a rock piling, both its color and texture altered by camouflage. Mayer judged it to be his size, about six feet, and wondered if he could take it on alone. He lunged at the octopus, grabbing one of its eight arms. It slipped slimily between his fingers, its suckers feeling and tasting his hand. He reached for it again, and again it retreated. Able to squeeze its body through a space as small as a lemon, the octopus was unlikely to succumb to his grip. He poked it with his finger and watched it turn brighter shades of red, until finally, it sprang forward and revealed itself to be a nine-foot wheel charging through the water.
The octopus grabbed Mayer where it could, encircling his thigh, spiraling his torso, its some 1,600 suckers — varying in size from a peppercorn to a pepper mill — latching onto his wet suit and face. It pulled Mayer’s regulator out of his mouth. His adrenaline rising, he punched the creature, and began a wrestling match that would last 25 minutes.
Eventually, he managed to pull the animal to the surface, where a number of divers couldn’t help noticing a teenager punching an 80-pound octopus. As they approached, Mayer freaked out. “Let’s get out of here,” he said, sucker marks ringing his face. “Maybe we shouldn’t have done this.” But it was too late.
I know a little something about GPOs and I know a little something about urban hunting—as well as the fury it can provoke among people who are perfectly happy to eat sushi and wear leather belts but work themselves into a lather when they stumble across someone (especially a nonprofessional) taking a DIY approach.
Another note about the young hunter—he not only had the curiosity and gumption to train for and go on the hunt, he had the guts to show up to the public meeting about his controversial hunt and humbly announce his presence and opinion.
“I was the hunter," the article quotes him as saying. "I did not know that that place was so loved by all the divers, or otherwise I would not have done it... I do agree with how that place should be off limits [to octopus hunting], and it should be clearly posted so that this mistake doesn’t happen again."
He tried something, he learned something, he owned up to the consequences. And the truth about him, his background, and his motivations is so much more nuanced and interesting than the outraged caricatures of him painted on blogs and in comments threads. Read the whole thing here.