The Oregon Coast Aquarium rehabilitated and released a giant Pacific octopus that was caught in a crab trap back in March. The 22 lb. female octopus was brought in to the Aquarium by a crab fisherman on March 26 in an underweight condition with open wounds on her arms. Aquarium staff transferred the octopus to a quarantine area behind-the-scenes, where they spent the past few months treating the cuts and hand-feeding the invertebrate crab to help it gain weight.
Once the octopus began feeding consistently, staff decided that the octopus’s best chances for survival would be back in the wild. Within a half hour of receiving the release permit from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Coast Aquarium Octopus Specialist, Lance Hayes, transferred the octopus to the Aquarium dive vessel, Gracie Lynn, for release offshore at South Reef, just south of Newport.
"We typically release our Giant Pacific Octopuses offshore back into their natural habitat whenever possible,” said Hayes. “This way there is minimal acclimation to their surroundings, helps eliminate the predation they would encounter in shallower waters, and gives them a better chance to meet a mate and have baby octos for us for the future.” Once staff identified a location with ample rocky habitat by sonar, Hayes carefully retrieved the octopus from an aerated cooler filled with water and lowered the octopus into the water. She gently left the net and sunk into the ocean depths with arms outstretched.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium receives octopuses from a variety of sources, typically as donations from fisherman after being caught as bycatch and sometimes through collection with the appropriate state and federal permits. Depending on capacity and the octopus’s behavior, the Aquarium will either release the animal after rehabilitation or show the animal in an exhibit for guests to see for some time before eventual release. The goal is always to allow the octopuses to reproduce in the wild before they reach senescence—the end of an octopus’s life cycle.
Aquarium visitors have the opportunity to learn about, meet and get hands-on with one of these unique and curious invertebrates on a Giant Pacific Octopus Encounter. Octopus Encounters can be reserved online every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm at www.aquarium.org. Information and photos provided by OCA