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October 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 28, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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You Donít Have to Start a Nonprofit to Do Good

from the October, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

When you see underwater habitat or critters being destroyed, do you speak out? Seattle dive instructors Bob Bailey and Scott Lundy did -- and the result was that Washington State ruled to protect the giant Pacific octopus.

It started in October 2012 when Bailey and Scott Lundy finished a dive in Seattle's Seacrest Park and witnessed a young man throwing a live, 30-pound, giant Pacific octopus in the back of a pickup truck. When they confronted him, the man said he was hunting, and that it was legal. Bailey responded, "It's legal, but nobody does that. It's wrong."

Lundy took photos of the squirming octopus in the pickup -- and its 19-year old captor, Dylan Mayer -- and Bailey posted them online. Bailey said his decision was made in response to Mayer's comments that he was within his rights to take octopus from the site, and that he was coming back tomorrow to take another one. (When the media found out who Mayer was, he told them he was using the octopus for an art project, and then would eat it.) "I felt that issue needed to be addressed immediately -- one determined hunter could clean out a dive site of giant Pacific octopus in a week, and stay perfectly within his legal rights. So I took the action because, frankly, I didn't know how else to stop him from another hunt in our area. Seacrest is a park, and responsible hunters just don't hunt in parks."

Within 24 hours of posting his photos, Bailey received a big response. "Dozens of people with the wherewithal to get involved in a constructive manner, and hundreds who expressed outrage either in favor of or against what I did." After gauging the responses (which included hate mail and death threats), Bailey stepped out of the limelight and let Lundy be the spokesperson. Lundy contacted several organizations and dive industry professions, and organized a meeting with Washington's Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission the week after the octopus was captured. Bailey was one of the divers who spoke before the panel.

In August, the Fish and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to prohibit recreational hunting of giant Pacific octopus at seven popular dive sites in Puget Sound, one of which is Seacrest Park. Bailey is happy with that decision, and glad he played a part. "I think bringing something to the public's attention is fine. However, after experiencing what happens afterwards, I would recommend that you do so without publicly identifying the person you're taking issue with. The biggest mistake I made was putting Dylan's face out there. I didn't realize how crazy some people are when they can hide behind a keyboard, and I in no way condone what happened to his family. They didn't deserve to be pummeled and threatened by anonymous Internet users -- and neither did he."

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