The Otter Project released its sea otter status report today, based on the 2009 spring count and stranding information from throughout the previous year. You can read the report in full by following the link above.
Although two indicators showed positive results, the overall sense is that the sea otter population is in decline. The United States Geological Survey, who participates in surveying sea otters called the population “stable or slightly declining”. This is a conservative estimate, but fair, considering it takes time to spot trends in population. A slight fluctuation in the numbers could be just that. The Otter Project believes the population to be in decline.
Because of varying conditions, the fall count is not taken into account in calculating the 3 year average, the number used to make management decisions for southern sea otters. We’ll have to wait until later this spring to know if the decline will continue, or if the sea otter’s luck might just change. As the Service fights for its right to do nothing to extend protections to sea otters throughout its range, luck might be all the sea otter has on its side.
Although it’s too soon to know how precipitous a decline this is, we at The Otter Project believe that action should be taken immediately to protect the population from further decline. Actions that can be taken to help the sea otter include:
- Improving water quality throughout the sea otters range by minimizing agricultural and urban runoff, and by ensuring that coastal sewage treatment systems, powerplants and other infrastructure are upgraded to prevent pollution and ecosystem damage.
- Ending the no otter zone to give sea otters full legal protections throughout their range
- Supporting ecosystem based management of the near-shore, including implementation of marine protected areas.
- Enforcing existing regulations that exist to protect sea otters, such as prohibitions against killing or harassing otters.
This may sound like a lot, and it is! That’s why we need the public’s support to help us protect the sea otter. There are all sorts of ways you as an individual can help. You can become a member of The Otter Project, speak up for otters and the environment at a public meeting, encourage your friends and family not to pollute, and support sustainability and conservation in public policy!
In the next few weeks, we’re going to highlight members, community members and friends that have gone out of their way to help us protect the southern sea otter. Know someone who we should feature? Please let us know!