The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday extended protections for giant Pacific octopuses in Puget Sound by prohibiting the recreational harvest of the species at seven popular scuba diving sites from Whidbey Island to Tacoma.
The commission reviewed the rules after a diver killed an octopus last October in a popular diving area near Alki Point in Seattle.
The commission considered several options for managing the recreational harvest of Pacific octopuses before unanimously deciding to prohibit their harvest at:
- Redondo Beach in Des Moines;
- Three Tree Point in Burien;
- Seacrest Park Coves 1, 2 and 3 near Alki Point in West Seattle;
- An area adjacent to the Les Davis Fishing Pier in Tacoma;
- The Alki Beach Junk Yard in West Seattle;
- The Days Island Wall in Tacoma;
- Deception Pass north of Oak Harbor.
The new rules will take effect this fall.
Working with a 12-member citizen advisory committee that included members of the sportfishing and diving communities, WDFW developed options that ranged from making no rule changes to banning the recreational harvest of the octopuses throughout Puget Sound. The department received hundreds of comments on the management options during and after a pair of public workshops in the spring in Port Townsend and Seattle.
Craig Burley, WDFW Fish Management Program Manager, said many sportfishers preferred the status quo, while many divers favored a Puget Sound-wide ban. Burley said the octopus population in the Sound appears to be healthy and that the current recreational harvest is very small.
Several commission members said they favored some additional protections in recognition of the broad appeal of the species to recreational divers around the world, and the potential economic benefits of enhancing the reputation of Puget Sound as a premier diving location.
"Washington is an important dive location, and protection of the octopus is important both to the dive community and to the economy of the state," said Commissioner Conrad Mahnken of Bainbridge Island.
Mahnken said Washington state is the fourth most popular dive location in the U.S. and the only northern state in the top 10.