Killer octopus not seen posing threat to swimmers

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

As the hot, humid days lure people to the beaches, some may worry about the deadly octopuses that have been spotted in the Kanto region. To the relief of many, experts say few of them are still alive and beach-goers don’t need to worry about the possibility of being bit by the venomous little critters.

Blue-ringed octopi, with a highly venomous bite, were first seen near the town of Yugawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, in May. They were then observed last month in a port area in Chigasaki, Kanagawa.

Each one carries the potentially fatal poison tetrodotoxin, the same toxin possessed by fugu, or puffer fish. A bite from the octopus can cause respiratory failure.

Although the pint-sized octopus has long inhabited the region, the rare sightings in May and June made headlines across the nation and raised public safety concerns.

But an expert at Enoshima Aquarium in Kanagawa Prefecture says their lifespan is just one year, and once they finish laying their eggs from April through June most will die off, meaning the chance is quite low anyone will stumble onto them in the upcoming summer.

“The odds of (swimmers and the like) coming across the octopus are perhaps even lower than being struck by lightning,” Tadao Sakiyama, a chief executive at the aquarium, told The Japan Times on Tuesday. “But the possibility still remains that some of them are alive if they failed to mate,” he continued, stressing they are indeed dangerous.

The chance of a baby blue-ring carrying a lethal amount of toxin is extremely small, Sakiyama said.

Measuring only 10 to 15 cm, the blue-ring octopus usually hides among rocks, which makes it rare for them to come in contact with beach-goers.

The toxin is unlikely to cause death quickly, so anyone bitten should immediately go to a hospital rather than try to suck the toxin out on their own.

Unaggressive by nature, the octopus is unlikely to attack a swimmer unless it is provoked.

“We want people to be well aware of their signature blue-speckled pattern, and not approach them on the off-chance they actually come across them,” Sakiyama said.