PubTalk 8/2004 — Precipice of Survival
What is the Future of the Southern Sea Otter?
Featuring the new award-winning USGS video Precipice of Survival. The Southern Sea Otter by Stephen Wessells, introduced and discussed by sea otter researchers including Alisha H. Kage and M. Tim Tinker, Research Biologists
- The southern subspecies of sea otter, Enhydra lutris nereis, is a keystone organism in the kelp forests along the California coast
- One of the otters' favorite foods is sea urchins, which feed on the kelp-hence changes in the otter population affect all levels of the ecosystem
- The species Enhydra lutris originally was found all the way around the North Pacific, from Baja California to Japan, and may have numbered half a million animals
- The southern subspecies was thought to be extinct in the early 20th century, but a tiny colony was found off Big Sur in the 1930's and has since expanded to about 2,500 animals along our coast
- In the 1990's, otter numbers off California began to decline again--but why?