Central Coast Otter Population Still Shy of the 3,000 Mark
August 21, 2012
Monterey Bay's iconic sea otters appear to be rebounding from near-extinction at the turn of the 20th century, but not fast enough to give conservationists a good nights' sleep.
A 2012 survey of southern sea otters led by the U.S. Geological Survey, California Department of Fish and Game and Monterey Bay Aquarium counted the local otter population at 2,792. (The above photo is courtesy the USGS.)
The USGS, which has been conducting the annual survey since the 1980s, calculates the population index as a multi-year average. The index showed a slow rise for almost 10 years, a plateau in the 1990s, another slow rise in the early 2000s, a plateau in 2008, and a decline in 2010 to 2,711. The 2011 survey was incomplete due to the weather.
Scientists consider the nominal population growth from 2010 to 2012 a relative plateau. They also note a record high of 335 sea otter strandings (sick, injured or dead otters found along the coast) in 2011.
"Just as the polar bear has become symbolic of protecting the Arctic, so is the status of the sea otter emblematic of the health of the Central California Coast," stated USGS Director Marcia McNutt, who formerly led the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing.
According to today's USGS press release, the population index would have to reach at least 3,090 for three straight years for the southern sea otter to be considered for removal from the threatened species list.