I was infatuated with sea otters for most of my childhood. I vividly remember visiting the otter exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and having to have my family members bribe me to get me away from the tank. The deal was that once we had seen the rest of the aquarium, they would then take me back to hang with the otters for awhile. When it came time to leave I couldn’t stand the thought, so I convinced my mom to buy me a stuffed sea otter plush from the gift store. It cost $10, and I remember promising up and down that I would work so hard to pay for it.
Oshe (short for Ocean) was the name that I gave my new friend, and I took that thing with me everywhere! We snuggled and played, and devised a plan to create a salt-water tank in my backyard so that someday I could actually have a real otter as a pet. I remember begging my Dad… absolutely begging him to have an otter as a pet. I drew plans to show where we should put the tank, and how we would keep it cool on hot summer days. I promised to feed and play with it daily, and that I’d train my Golden Retrievers to be nice to it.
As you can imagine I did not get an otter for a pet, but that didn’t stop my fantasies.
Otters have always seemed to have trouble staying off of the endangered species list. In the late 1800’s they fell victim to the fur trade and were considered extinct before a small colony was discovered off the coast of Big Sur. Sea otters have been fighting for recovery ever since, and there are several factors that limit their chances for survival.
An article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle showed nearly a 4% drop in the population of California’s sea otters since last year, and states that, “the otters’ survival is at risk from biological and chemical pollutants, a shortage of nutritious food, boat strikes, fishing gear entanglement and violence from humans.” Chemical pollutants not only harm the otter’s aquatic habitat, but are also depleting their nutritious food source by poisoning the invertabrates they eat. Residual fishing equipment combined with other types of waste (i.e.: different plastics) are also hazardous obstacles that the otters must deal with to survive.
Ultimately this news isn’t new, but it is definitely sad to see such a decline in population after a period of relative growth. All of the, “little things,” that we do can help to save not only the otter population, but the populations of other marine creatures as well. Taking the time to cut the loops of plastic 6-pack holders, recycling as much as possible, finding ways to cut down waste, NOT LITTERING, and being responsible for the chemicals that one uses are all ways that can help save our creatures, and make our own environments a better place for future generations.
If you’d like to help the sea otters specifically, there are a few groups that have been created just for the cause. Friends of the Sea Otter is an awesome group that was started in the 1970’s in order to advocate conservation and environmental awareness. They work with lawmakers in order to maintain current preservation efforts & add more. Their membership fee is reasonable, $30 annually for individuals, and is a great way to get involved. There’s also the California Sea Otter Fund that you can make direct donations to from your 540 tax form! I have the luxury of filing the 1040EZ, so I had no idea about this until now. So if you file a 540, definitely make a contribution! They need a minimum of $262,500 in order to stay on the form for next year.
So there’s my cause of the day! I love these little creatures more than most people know, and will now be making more of an effort to strive for awareness and conservation. Anyone down for a road trip to the Aquarium??