Sea Otters by kalliope pruim

The Sea Otter population was once more than 1 million, but they were hunted close to extinction in the 1700 and 1800s by fur traders. Because of this, their numbers dropped down to 1,000-2,000 by the early 1900s

From the 1980s-2005, the population decreased 90% because of an increase in Orca Whale predation.

The International Fur Seal Treaty of 1911 was created to protect and ban all open water hunting of fur mammals. The Marine Mammal Protection created in the 1970s makes it so that it is illegal to harm or take any marine mammal. Endangered Species Act in 1970s was designed to protect and conserve mainly marine animals from becoming extinct.

The Sea Otters Scientific name is Enhydra lutris.

Sea otters are secondary consumers since they eat the sea urchins (primary consumer) who feed on kelp (producer).

Oil spills are a big threat to the Sea Otters because their fur becomes matted when in contact, which leads to them getting hypothermia since their fur isn’t insulated anymore and the water is icy cold. The oil is also very toxic and can cause liver and kidney failure, plus eye and lung damage.

Shark attacks account for 50% of the death rate in Sea Otters since their habitat is continually expanding due to a loss of food.

Sea Otters eat the same shellfish, crabs, urchins, and lobsters as humans, so fishermen see them as a threat to their economic gain. As a result, they hunt them to keep them away from their food.

Pollution runs off from the shore and into the water which harms the sea otters as well as their food sources. 40% of sea otters in California die from parasites and infectious diseases due to this reason.

Sea Otters live in the Northern Pacific waters along Japan, Siberia, and the Aleutian Chain. The also inhibit the waters down the coasts of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California. There have been sightings of Sea Otters in Mexico as well, but a majority of them coincide in the shallow waters of Alaska.

Their geographic range spreads north and south depending on the season. Sea Otters migrate to different ocean areas because food is becoming more scarce for them. They move south during the winter and spring and back up north for the other two seasons. Moving south means they'll be closer to oil and gas developments and they'll come in contact with more shellfish fishers.

The current population of the Sea Otter is around 125,831 worldwide, which is quite low considering their population being over 1 million before the 1700s.

The population in Alaska during 1973 was around 100,000-125,000. As of 2013, the Sea Otter population dropped to about 89,073. The over all population numbers continue to decline. The growth rate is significantly low at less than 1% annually.

Their diet consists of clams, crabs, snails, starfish, abalone, and approximately 40 more small marine animals.

Sea Otters eat abalone (found in kelp beds) by cracking their hard shell with a rock. Without the Sea Otters being a predator to the abalone, the kelp beds would become destroyed, which is important since the kelp forests capture carbon dioxide in coastal ecosystems and without them, the ocean would become more acidic.


Created with images by NOAA Photo Library - "anim2161"

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