Last month, during our annual octopus census, Aquarium staff and divers from around Puget Sound counted 41 giant Pacific octopuses (GPOs) at 13 locations. Below is a Q&A with Senior Aquarist Kathryn Kegel about the results.
Q: The Seattle Aquarium has been coordinating the octopus census for 16 years. Was anything different this year?
A: This year we made some changes to try and get more consistent data going forward. One change was switching the time of the census from January to October, when there is better weather (and therefore more divers willing to go out). Because this census relies on volunteers from the Puget Sound diving community, we never know how much data we will get. This year, we also sent out Aquarium staff to survey six sites, which we will start visiting for octopus census every year (Cove 2, Redondo, Day Island, KVI Towers, Sunrise Beach, Zee’s Reef).
Q: With this type of citizen science, is there ever questionable data?
A: I look through all the data, and if I have a question about any sighting, I will throw that data out. We do not want to overstate what was reported. For example, if I see a report of a golf ball-sized GPO, that is probably a red octopus, and so I’ll throw that data out. I’ll make an exception if there is photo evidence or something else to make the report more solid. Since we have divers report the depth and den site where they see the octopus, I can also throw out duplicate data, if I think two divers are reporting the same animal.
Q: Do we know how many giant Pacific octopuses are in Puget Sound?
A: We don’t know their population here, but the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is in charge of their management, looks at GPOs that are caught by the recreational fishery and any bycatch to determine the best management of the species here in Puget Sound. Based on that, they are not concerned about our GPO population. There is no commercial fishery here for octopuses, but there is a small recreational fishery.
Read our previous our previous blog post to learn about Aquarium staff members participating in this year’s census!