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Dylan Mayer holding the octopus he hunted last week at Cove 2. The hunt sparked widespread outrage. (Photo by Mark Saiget)

The Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife announced today it will consider bans on octopus harvesting near popular Seattle beaches and possibly other areas in the 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 on Thursday.

“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 the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife 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 octopus that divers flock to the cove to see.

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife director Phil Anderson said the department will consider new rules to preserve the population of giant Pacific octopus at Seacrest Park near Alki Point, ranging from designating the park a marine protected area to prohibiting hunting giant Pacific octopus anywhere in the state. A statement released by the department today said public meetings regarding possible harvesting bans would be held this winter.

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 Lundya 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 an early 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 octopus 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.

To learn more about the hunt, and the animal behind the outrage, catch up on  Lynda Mapes’ stories and blog posts.