Today the US Geological Survey released the Spring 2013 sea otter count, and it’s good news, the California sea otter population has continued to grow for the second consecutive year. Teams of scientists counted 2899 otters and pups, this is up from 2865 adults and pups counted in 2012.
Sea otter recovery is keyed to the three year running average, or population index. This year the three year average was 2882 otters, up from 2792 in 2012. An index of 3090 is required before the population can be considered for de-listing from America’s Endangered Species Act.
In recent years the California sea otter population has been growing in fits and starts with declines in the late 1990s and again a decline in 2009 and 2010. Otters were not counted in 2011.
The population has a long way to go: An estimated 12,000 to 18,000 sea otters once lived along our coast. Sea otters were hunted for their fur and the population was decimated in the 1700s and early 1800s by American, Spanish, Russian, British, and French traders. Thought to be extinct in California, a small population was ‘discovered’ near Bixby Creek in the 1930s when Highway 1 along the Big Sur Coast was first opened.
“This is really fantastic news,” said Steve Shimek, Chief Executive of The Otter Project, “the California sea otter is considered an iconic endangered species and to see it scrap back from the brink within our lifetimes is a true success story.”
“Otters are dying from shark attacks, natural causes, and other things we can do nothing about, but they are also dying from diseases and chemicals washing from land. For over a decade now The Otter Project has been working to improve the ocean environment and we think it is having an impact. It’s great to see that the hard work is starting to pay off.”