Californians Care for the Sea Otter

Californians are passionate about many different causes. For example, people around the country are familiar with California's commitment to civil rights. It's also not hard to forget about California's obsession with computers and technology. However, there may be at least one thing outsiders fail to know about Californians. Do you know what it is? It's the importance of the sea otter.

Sea otters once could be found everywhere in California. Unfortunately the fur traders operating in the 18th and 19th centuries almost put an end to that. Once, there were over 20,000 sea otters in California. By the 1970s, only a few dozen remained. Thankfully, strict wildlife laws prevented those numbers from dropping. However, the increase of sea otters over the years has been agonizingly slow. Over the past decade, the sea otter population has only grown less than 2 percent per year.

What exactly is the sea otter population today? In 2017, the count was reported as 3,186. This is actually 86 less than the previous year. The slow growth can be attributed to a high mortality rate. For years, large numbers of sea otters have been turning up on California coasts either dead or dying. These early sea otter deaths are often brought about by sharks, disease, and poisoning by algae blooms strengthened by fertilizer pollution in the water.

The low numbers of sea otters should concern Californians on an emotional and practical level. On an emotional level, no Californian wants to be part of a generation that sees an entire species wiped out. More practically, Californians realize that sea otters are a keystone species in the Californian ecosystem. Harm done to sea otters can resonate throughout the food web. Since human eat many of the same things sea otters eat, this should make people very concerned.

There are several things that can be done to help the sea otter. Most pressingly, more research needs to be done on the fertilizer pollution believed to be increasing the number of algae blooms. Regulations placed on the types of fertilizers allowed to contaminate the ocean may be the best way to help curb the number of sea otter deaths. Over time, this may be able to help the sea otter population increase at faster rate.

It also wouldn't be a bad idea for more Californians to voice concerns over the sea otter. Remember, raising your voice is the best way to bring lasting change.


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