A year after she came to the Central Coast Aquarium in Avila Beach, “Joan” the Octopus is back home in the Pacific Ocean.
Joan, a Giant Pacific Octopus, was donated to the aquarium last year after she was accidentally caught by a fisherman.
“They’re the largest species of octopus,” Central Coast Aquarium Programs Dir. Travis Norton said. “They can get up to 16 feet long and weigh 100 lbs, so she’s very small for a Giant Pacific Octopus. We think she’s about 1 year old.”
In her young life, Joan, which is named after the aquarium’s biggest donor, has intrigued and inspired her many visitors.
“It’s been cool to see the community come to be so excited about the chance to see this octopus,” Norton said.
Sunday marked Joan’s final day at the aquarium.
To commemorate the moment, Norton attempted an underwater photo with a GoPro camera, which took about 20 minutes to pry from Joan’s clutches.
She apparently isn’t camera shy.
After she was loaded up, Joan was carried onto a boat in Morro Bay and taken up to the coast to Point Estero in Cambria, where she was caught in the trap last year.
“They’re releasing her back in the same spot she was caught by local fisherman,” Central Coast Aquarium Board Member Richard Zacky said. “Everything they do is sustainable. We hate to see her go but that’s where she belongs.”
An in-person viewing of Joan’s release was auctioned off at a fundraiser for the aquarium. The crowd of about 20 people can be heard cheering in a video of the release.
At the time of her initial capture, not everyone cheered her entrance to the aquarium.
“My initial reaction is ‘here we go again,'” Joey Ricano, who founded CA Ocean Outfall, said. “A creature winds up incarcerated for its entire life and that’s not fair.”
Recano, a Los Osos man, circulated a petition for the animal’s release last year. But on Sunday, even he offered praise for the aquarium.
“It showed me they’re a class act,” Recano said. “I think that the fact that Joan has been released, that shows we’re evolving and gives me great hope for the future.”
Though her presence will be missed, aquarium staff members said Joan has done her part as an ambassador to the sea.