In the same way some might enjoy fishing or hunting game, others like Dylan Mayer hunt octopus -- and it's perfectly legal. But the 19-year-old from Washington has received death threats after photos of his latest catch were posted on the Internet.
Last week, Mayer and a friend caught a Giant Pacific octopus in the waters of Alki Cove 2 near Seattle, Washington. Other divers took pictures of Mayer holding the female octopus and wrote a blog post about his actions, which was then linked to by Northwest Diving Institute and has gone viral since.
Mayer holding his catch on the shore. (Photo via KOMO News)
The blog Rapture of the Deep posted photos of Mayer in his diving gear holding the octopus and wrote:
The octopus was clearly in distress and fighting, but the divers repeatedly struck the mantle and then carried it up the beach and to the parking lot, writhing and squirming, where it was unceremoniously thrown into the back of a red Ford pickup truck.
Several local divers including Bob B. and Mark S. confronted the captors and and began asking questions. The individuals clearly did not care that they had just taken a beautiful octopus from one of the most popular dive sites in the state of Washington. The divers tried to reason with the hunters and explained that people come from all over the world to this site to see these GPOS, which have been likened to pets within the local community.
The octopus was put into a red pick-up truck. (Photo via KOMO News)
My Northwest reported Bob Bailey expounding further on his feelings about the hunting activity:
"Duck hunting is legal. It's perfectly legal. Imagine how you would feel if, while you were enjoying these ducks in the park, someone walked up and shot them. That's very much analogous with how divers feel when someone pulls an octopus out of a popular site."
My Northwest then reported that Bailey and others have spread the word to such an extent that Mayer and his friend are now banned from many scuba shops in the Puget Sound area.
Mayer measures the octopus he caught. (Photo via KOMO News)
"Those people didn't do that out of emotion," Bailey said to My Northwest. "They're protecting their business. People come here from all over the world and they pay money to come here to see these animals. So there is an economic interest in protecting them."
Watch this local news report about the community outrage:
In the report, a shop owner said that some of the groups asking that dive shops not provide service to the men who caught the octopus have done so in a threatening manner.
According to KOMO News, Mayer said it was his dream to become a rescue diver, but he now feels that this aspiration could be jeopardized as he has recently been refused from diving schools.
But these aren't the only consequences Mayer is experiencing. My Northwest reported parents of the two hunters said they've even received threatening calls at home.
KOMO News reported Mayer saying though that he eats octopus for meat. He and his friend had the appropriate license for catching the octopus, which allows for one per day. The Giant Pacific octopus is a legal species to capture as well.
"It's no different than fishing. It's just a different animal," he said.
Some reported that Mayer had taken the female octopus from her nest, but Mayer told KOMO this is not true and that an official even verified it:
The involved game warden, Wendy Willette, said Mayer did not do anything wrong.
"I think the timing, manner and place where the harvest occurred may be the issue. It could have been done at a better time," she said. "It's like deer hunting. You don't kill a deer while kids are viewing it, and I think it's a similar problem here. You need to be sensitive to other drivers and people if you're going to be a sportsman."
Watch KOMO's report:
The families of the two boys issued a statement, which read in part:
Our sons are good young men and do not deserve the backlash that this has created. Our families do not deserve to live in fear based on the threats that have been made. Please keep this issue in perspective. This was about a couple of young men that were going fishing for the day. Nothing more. Nothing less. They were not aware they were doing anything wrong.
The statement continues saying the men had never intended to do anything malicious and yet they are still apologizing to those who were offended. The men are described in the statement as amateur divers who "mistake made from inexperience and unfamiliarity of the culture of diving."
(H/T: Huffington Post)