Smart & delicious

This giant Pacific octopus was photographed at a depth of about 200 feet off the California coast.

Giant Pacific octopus are known to grow up to 156 pounds, though those canned in Pacific County are typically much smaller. They live in coastal waters all along the northern Pacific Rim, from California north to Alaska and across to eastern Russia, northern Japan and Korea.

Their abundance is unknown, but they aren’t protected by international conservation laws. Giant Pacific octopus are protected by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at seven sites in Puget Sound, after public outcry about the controversial sport harvest of one near Alki Point in West Seattle about five years ago.

Giant Pacific octopus have relatively long lives compared to many other octopus species — they live three or four years, compared to one or two years for most other species.

They are popular food for many other animals, including humans. They are particularly popular in Asian cultures, but have a growing fan club in the Pacific Northwest.

Although their evolutionary lines split away from those of humans, dolphins and other high-order mammals hundreds of millions of years ago, octopus independently evolved relatively advanced intelligence, even displaying signs of individual personalities. Their level of intelligence has sometimes been compared to that of domestic house cats.

“Giant Pacific octopuses are commonly kept on display at aquariums due to their size and interesting physiology, and have demonstrated the ability to recognize humans that they frequently come in contact with,” according to the Wikipedia entry concerning them. “These responses include jetting water, changing body texture, and other behaviors that are consistently demonstrated to specific individuals. They have the ability to solve simple puzzles, open childproof bottles and use ‘tools.’ The octopus brain has folded lobes (a distinct characteristic of complexity), visual and tactile memory centers. They have about 300 million neurons. They have been known to open tank valves, disassemble expensive equipment, and generally wreak havoc in labs and aquaria. Some researchers even claim that they are capable of motor play and having personalities.”

They eat crab, clams and other commercially raised shellfish in Willapa Bay, Puget Sound and other U.S. waters. Those canned by Ekone are harvested by accident by another company.

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