A few weeks ago members of our Fish and Invertebrates team released Umbrella, the giant Pacific octopus (GPO), back to Neah Bay where he was originally collected from just over a year ago. You can view the video of his release below.
Octopuses are generally kept at the Aquarium anywhere from a year to a year-and-a-half, and then are released back to their original homes. Amazingly, GPOs grow from the size of a grain of rice to upwards of 60 pounds in three to five years. When Umbrella first joined us he weighed 16 pounds and at the time of his release weighed in at just over 50 pounds!
Why do we release our octopuses?
We get a permit each year from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to collect a certain number of GPOs to live in our exhibit and educate the public. When an octopus living at the Aquarium starts to show signs of maturity (for example reduction in appetite), we make plans to release them back to the same body of water where they were collected.
Octopuses breed only toward the end of their lifecycle and by releasing our GPOs back into the wild we help preserve the genetics of distinct populations (Salish Sea vs. outer coast GPOs) and ensure each octopus has the opportunity to live out its full life cycle.
Come visit our new GPO!
Though we had to say goodbye to Umbrella, the exciting news is we have a new octopus on display at the Aquarium. Zoey is a female octopus estimated to be between one and one-and-a-half years old. She weighed in at about 12 pounds at the time of her collection.
An interesting fact about octopuses is that size is not an accurate indicator of maturity. Their size is dependent upon the availability of food, and though Umbrella reached more than 50 pounds at the time of his release, it isn’t uncommon for a GPO to reach sexual maturity at a much smaller size. Every octopus is unique!
GPOs like Umbrella and Zoey help inspire our guests learn more about this amazing species and help demonstrate the amazing diversity of flora and fauna that exists just below the ocean surface.
You can check out our live octopus cam if you want to take a peek at Zoey as she grows rapidly over the next year. You can also visit her in person and see a live feeding daily at noon and 4pm—don’t miss the fun of seeing this amazing creature!