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KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

Octopuses' Gardens: State Designates 7 No-Hunt Spots

When a 19-year-old man lured a giant Pacific octopus from its lair off Alki Beach in West Seattle last year – legally, it turned out – a small group of activists were aghast that the charismatic cephalopod wasn’t protected.

They lobbied the state for more protections for the octopus, and triumphed when the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted rules to prohibit recreational octopus harvesting at seven popular dive spots in the Puget Sound region.  The law went into effect on Sunday, October 6.

Diver and photographer Jim Boon said the incident last year, although upsetting to some, helped to establish those official protections in his regular dive spot at Alki Beach.

“It was a great wake-up call,” Boon said. “People could come here, they could hunt octopus, they could bring spear guns and shoot rockfish or they could shoot ling cod – all the things that I take for granted as beautiful fish that I like to photograph.”

Until these rules, license-holders could hunt one octopus a day (although they were not allowed to scare them out of their dens with chemicals), as their populations were considered healthy.  

Rhoda Green, another regular diver at the cove on Alki, said she looks for octopuses every time she goes out.

“The octopus is a mega fauna here in the Puget Sound. And not every day do you get to see one,” Green said. “To interact with a huge animal that’s bigger than me and see one in the wild is pretty awesome.”

Protected areas:

•             Deception Pass north of Oak Harbor (map)

•             Seacrest Park Coves 1, 2 and 3 near Alki Point in West Seattle (map)

•             Alki Beach Junk Yard in West Seattle (map)

•             Three Tree Point in Burien (map)

•             Redondo Beach in Des Moines (map)

•             Les Davis Marine Park adjacent to the Les Davis Fishing Pier in Tacoma (map)

•             Days Island Wall in Tacoma (map)