The population of threatened southern sea otters in Elkhorn Slough, an estuary in Central California, has made a significant comeback as a result of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Program.
The population of threatened southern sea otters in Elkhorn Slough, an estuary in Central California, has made a significant comeback as a result of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Program. A newly-published study in Oryx—The International Journal of Conservation documents 15 years of research showing how the program helped restore the population in the coastal estuary, with surrogate-reared otters and their descendants accounting for more than 50 percent of observed population growth during that period. The study’s findings also demonstrate the potential benefits of reintroducing otters into other California estuaries where otter populations once thrived.
“If otters do great things, and there are places missing otters, and we now have a way to change that, why wouldn’t we want to do it? Let’s fix this,” said Dr. Kyle Van Houtan, chief scientist at Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Monterey Bay Aquarium began placing rescued sea otters in Elkhorn Slough as part of its collaboration with state and federal authorities to restore the threatened southern sea otter population. The species was nearly hunted to extinction in California during the fur trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. The state’s population has slowly increased to just over 3,000 sea otters between Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, but the otters have yet to return to their full historical range from Alaska, down the coast of California to Mexico’s Baja California.
Read more at Monterey Bay Aquarium
Image: Rescued southern sea otter pup 327 with surrogate mother at Monterey Bay Aquarium (Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium)