Sidney aquarium to release octopus back into the wild

Steve the Giant Pacific Octopus has completed his six-month stay at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney.

Steve the Giant Pacific Octopus will be released back into the wild Sunday

Steve’s six-month stay at the Shaw Ocean Discover Centre in Sidney is coming to an end and this Sunday. He’ll be returning to the sea for good after using his brain and multiple appendages to teach aquarium staff and visitors about his capacity to learn and adapt.

Steve is the Giant Pacific Octopus in residence at SODC and this Sunday, he will be taken back to where he was found and released back into the wild. Christina Smethurst, marketing manager for SODC, said Steve will be taken to an undisclosed area for the release, accompanied by curator and head aquarist Paula Romagosa and a film crew from National Geographic (in the area on a different assignment). Once Steve is returned to the sea, Smethurst said a replacement octopus will be captured and brought to the aquarium. That, of course, depends on whether the aquarists can catch one that day.

Smethurst said the SODC only keeps the octopi for six months at a time, studying them and including them in what they call an octopus enrichment program. Steve, while in the program, interacted with people and objects, demonstrating the intelligence of the species.

“It a study of its behaviour by itself, then its response to playing with one of our aquarists and toys. (Steve) learned how to open jars. We want to learn as much as we can while they are with us.”

Once the six months are up, she said the octopi are released back into the wild to live out their days. People have until Saturday, Jan. 26 to see Steve at the Discovery Centre.

Steve was named in a public contest that saw entries placed in jars that the octopus opened over a series of weeks, narrowing down the choices until only “Steve” remained. Smethurst said she wasn’t sure if the next octopus will have a name, but added it’s sure to be a popular draw.

“The octopus is always one of the most popular exhibits,” she said. “It’s not every day you see a Giant Pacific Octopus.”