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Washington panel might restrict octopus hunting

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August 2, 2013 10:52 AM EST | AP

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OLYMPIA, Wash. — Hunting giant Pacific octopuses in Puget Sound could be banned or restricted under regulations being considered by a state panel.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission began reviewing the rules after a diver killed an octopus in October at a popular diving area near Alki Point in Seattle. A diving instructor who arrived on the beach saw the man beating the octopus to death.

Photos of the incident outraged other divers who are familiar with octopus lairs and watch for the animals. Divers petitioned the panel to outlaw octopus hunting or to create marine preserves where they'll be safe.

Current rules allow a person with a valid state fishing license to harvest one giant Pacific octopus per day in most areas of Puget Sound.

The commission is weighing the topic at its meeting Friday and Saturday in Olympia.

The Seattle Aquarium says giant Pacific octopuses average 90 pounds and their arms can span 20 feet across, but a fully grown octopus can fit through a hole the size of a lemon.

The octopuses live in rocky dens, recognized by the discarded shells of crabs and clams they eat. They hunt at night and also eat fish and other species of octopus. Their suckers hold prey, which the octopus tears apart with a parrot-like beak.

Giant Pacific octopuses can change color at will depending on their surroundings and mood.