On Friday we told you about a pair of 19-year-old amateur divers who were seen hunting a Giant Pacific Octopus at a popular West Seattle diving spot. It was a legal hunt, but the local diving community considers this a disrespectful and unmoral act. Since this story broke on Friday, a huge debate has sparked.
Today, local divers outraged by the hunt have started to circulate a petition.
“We started a petition in collaboration with the Northwest News Dive Network,” says Seattle dive instructor Scott Lundy. “We wrote a petition essentially requesting the area of Cove Two be banned from harvesting GPO (Giant Pacific Octopus). Since that petition went live a little over 48 hours ago, we’ve received over 2,000 signatures. It’s been posted to Facebook, to news sites all across the world.”
On Thursday, a group of divers is going to Olympia to speak to the Washington Department of Fishery and Wildlife, to make their plea for protecting the Giant Pacific Octopus that live in Cove Two of the Puget Sound.
Dive instructor Bob Bailey saw the 19-year-olds pulling the octopus from the water last week. He sent the hunters’ photographs, names and license plate numbers to dive shops up and down the coasts, and posted this information on dive forums seen around the world. Now Bob tells me, in an exclusive interview, that he feels terrible about what happened on Friday.
“Things got a little emotional with the family,” says Bob. “Actually, on Friday, I called the mom and learned that they’ve been receiving harassing phone calls and emails and she categorized some of them as threatening to her family. It just made me really kind of ill, actually. I totally disapprove of that. It goes against everything that I believe in. So I’ve been stepping back. In fact you’re the first reporter that I’ve spoken to at all, since I last spoke to you [on Friday] and I’ve had several requests. Really out of concern for this family and their well-being. They don’t deserve this.”
I asked Bob if he’s received any threats from people on the other side of this debate.
“Oh yes, I’ve been compared to George Zimmerman and I’ve been called The Vigilante. You know, that’s okay. I don’t mind if people want to vent and I know who I am and the people who are important to me know who I am, and what I stand for, and why I’m doing this. I’m not doing this to hurt anyone. I respect this family. I respect all families. They’re very upset with me and they have a right to be upset. I disagree with what this young man did but I don’t believe that he or his family deserve to be harassed for it.”
I asked Bob if, in retrospect, he would have gone about things differently.
“That’s a good question! I’ve given it a lot of thought. Yes, I would go about it differently. I would not change my position on this. Had I to do it over again, I would try and do it in a way that didn’t directly identify this young man.”
Bob says he completely underestimated the power of social media.
“Facebook frightens me. I’m probably one of the 12 people in the USA who doesn’t have a Facebook account. Once this thing hit Facebook it just exploded. It was like throwing gasoline on a fire. That’s something I couldn’t have anticipated and it just brought all of these crazy people out of the woodwork.”