Thumbs Up!


This week we Washingtonians got happy news from our Department of Fish and Wildlife and NOAA.

First, our Southern resident orcas– orca pods J, K, and L that live in the Salish Sea and Puget Sound– will continue to have Endangered Species Act protection. Many people don’t realize that we have two types of orcas here, the Southern residents, who have their own diet and language, and transient orcas.

These orcas suffer from pollution, stress, and lack of their traditional food source, salmon. Members of their family are up to 90 years old but it seems like many newborns die or disappear. The Southern resident population was decimated in the late ’60s and early ’70s when they were rounded up to be sold into captivity. Some were killed in the process and many died or killed themselves later.

Lolita, whose native name is Tokitae, is almost half a century old and has been held in a tiny tank at the Miami Seaquarium since 1970. She is the only orca left of the 45 who were captured during that time period and sold to marine parks. There is an organized movement to bring her home to a sea pen in the San Juan Islands but the Seaquarium won’t let her leave. See

Given what we’ve done to the Southern resident population in the name of profit and entertainment, the least we can do is give them some protection under the Endangered Species Act. There is so much more that could be done, including increased controls on the pollution they live and breathe in, but this is a start.

For more about orcas in captivity, see a great article on National Geographic’s site about the new film Blackfish: The official film website is

Secondly, the Department of Fish and Wildlife banned the harvest of the Giant Pacific Octopus at seven popular dive spots. It sounds like very few are harvested a year but there’s really no reason for it. While they are considered a delicacy, no one’s going to starve by restricting the taking of these amazing creatures who some say are as smart as cats and dogs.

Last year an insensitive Seattle diver brought a female octopus out of the water and beat it to death with others watching. He had a permit but some onlookers were horrified by what they saw. While I don’t know if this is still the case, in the past octopi were supposed to be bagged and brought out of the water, then killed. So he didn’t break any laws that I know of, but it was certainly painful and horrifying to the creature and not a smart move.

When I was about six years old I had the extreme displeasure of seeing a live octopus dumped on the front porch. The poor guy was writhing and radiating fear like a laser light show. It traumatized me and that was no way for an octopus to become dinner. Imagine what such an intelligent creature must have been feeling after being yanked out of its home, driven miles in a motor vehicle, and dropped so unceremoniously in an alien world where people were screaming and running from it.

The way people sometimes treat animals shows a disturbing lack of empathy, and I’m glad that our state is stepping up its game to protect octopi. I’m not against all fishing and I do enjoy seafood, there’s just no good reason to harass and bludgeon intelligent cephalopods for sport. Instead I hope that, like most divers in our area, people will respect them and take the time to get to know just what extraordinary neighbors they are. It’s easy to forget that there’s a whole world just under the noisy, motorized surface of our inland waterways.


Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering. -Augustine


©2013 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

Seriously, what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s