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A Subspecies of Sea Otters in Central California

Abstract

The current paper aims at illustrating the details concerning the sea otters of California and reasons for them being considered an endangered species. The paper will discuss the aspects that threaten its existence and the importance of the species for the atmosphere. Furthermore, the information will be given on what has been and what can be undertaken so as to counter the challenges that the sea otters are going through. The paper is meant to discuss the issues that impact the conservation of the threatened species and sustainably using natural resources from modern point of view. Significantly, the enumeration will entirely be based on the sea otters of California as the primary species. Lastly, a conclusion will be given to sum up the contents of the research paper.

Introduction

The sea otters can easily adapt to the surrounding in the marine atmosphere. The presence of long whiskers assists them to effectively detect vibrations in sensitive forepaws and murky waters. They also have hind feet that are webbed and flipper-like for the purpose of propelling the animal through the water. The animal has blunt teeth used for crushing; hence, it indicates that the sea otter of California is a mammal. The sea otters are the heaviest members of the weasel family and are the second smallest marine mammals. Some other characteristics include the fact that they lack a layer of blubber that is needed to keep them warm (Alexander, 2010). The sea otters actually have the densest fur in the animal kingdom that is believed to insulate them.

Fundamentally, the sea otters play a greater role in their ecosystem than any other species. Significantly, it seems that their contribution to the ecosystem is what makes them an endangered species in California. The events of what the sea otter goes through and its relevance will be discussed in the below paragraphs so as to effectively illustrate the issue at stake. The purpose of the paper is to provide the reader with the information regarding the reasons as for why the sea otter of California is an endangered species and the solutions that have been proposed to counter such challenges. Moreover, the paper also contains a summary or conclusion to show what has been learned.

What Threatens the Population of the Sea Otter of California?

Threats in this case are the challenges that are affecting the prosperity of the sea otters living in California. The enumeration of threats facing the sea otters is based on the fact that the Californian sea otter population has exhibited a decline since 1995. Sea otter researchers have discovered that an increase in mortality of the prime age animals aged 3-10 years has been the major cause of the decline in their population. The presence of high mortality appears to be responsible for the overall slow growth and periods of decline in the species’ population. One of the primary causes recovered from the carcasses include predators like great white sharks which are known to kill sea otters (Braje & Rick, 2011). There are also the issues of infectious diseases, food limitation and chemical contaminations that are also likely to be contributing to the causes of death.

The other threat to the sea otters of California is a direct conflict with the human beings. The threats come about in the aspect of being shot and entrapped in fishing traps. The sea otters often feed on the same shellfish that humans feed on, hence, this is the reason they often find themselves in the same ecosystem which leads to their death. The rationale is based on the fact that both fishermen and sea otters find themselves in the same ecosystem competing for the same food, and as a result, they are killed (Gibson, 2013). The outcome of humans contributing to the decline of sea otters is indeed an issue that is among the factors that affect the significance of this species in California.

Oil spills also contribute to the death of sea otters in California when they come in contact with oil that causes their fur to mat. The outcome of coming in contact with the oil is the fact that it prevents it from insulating their bodies. The absence of the natural protection from the frigid water usually leads to their death due to hypothermia. The oil spill also affects the sea otters’ liver and leads to kidney failure and severe damage to their lungs and eyes due to the toxicity (Ellis, 2004). Thus, the effects of oil spill need to be eliminated so as to ensure that the sea otters of California do not extinct.

The other effects of the decline of sea otters in California include habitat degradation. This is where pollution on the land runs or flows into the ocean to contaminate the water. The pollution ultimately contaminates the food that sea otters consume and also harms them directly. As a result, the sea otters in California end up dying because of the polluted food or water that they consume. The infection that affects them includes parasites that are born due to the polluted ecosystem, which they live in (Noone, Sumaila, & Diaz, 2013). Fundamentally, pollution is also a huge threat to the sea otters as it leads to their extinction in California.

The other challenge that cannot be left behind is boat strikes. It is a threat to the sea otters in California as it leads to the decrease of sea otters’ population as it occurs during busy fishing times. Furthermore, there is also a threat of ecotourism where there has been an increase of individuals inhabiting the coast of California. The implication here is that sea otters face threats coming from all sides of their ecosystem; hence, this is the reason of why proper strategies need to be initiated so as to counter the increasing threat for the species (Braje & Rick, 2011). Based on the fact that sea otters usually come in contact with boat strike events and issues related to ecotourism, they have been threatened as they end up being killed for personal purposes.

From the above-mentioned threats, it is apparent that the sea otters often face major threats from the oil spill. The oil spills are the primary threats because they affect the sea otters both internally and externally. Thus, it is a threat that needs urgent precaution so as to counter the challenge as it is what is leading towards the decline of the sea otters in California. Thus, the oil spill together with the other threats that are affecting the sea otters of California needs be dealt with so as to counter the challenges affecting them (Gibson, 2013). Additionally, the other threats also need to be dealt with as well so as to ensure that the sea otters do not extinct.

Why Are Sea Otters So Important to Their Ecosystem?

Despite the fact that sea otters in California are endangered, they are also of high significance, which makes them relevant. The sea otters significantly contribute to the ecosystem around them in a positive way, hence it indicates that their lives need to be protected at all cost. The sea otters are vital based on the perspective that they are an iconic species in the coastline of California within the marine atmosphere. The sea otters symbolize the beauty and assortment of marine life that is found along the coastline of California (Jefferson, Webber, & Pitman, 2015). The sea otters in California are often looked at as a source of species because of their significance to the health and steadiness of the near shore marine environmental units.

The sea otters also perform an important ecological function in the kelp forest of California’s near-shore by eating sea urchins and other kelp gazers. It is a good approach that is being initiated by the sea otters as it ensures that the marine ecological system is balanced in the long run. Furthermore, the contribution made by the sea otters is significant as in the case of leaving kelp grazers unchecked, it would destroy kelp beds (Alexander, 2010). Thus, the above mentioned reasons apparently show that the sea otters are relevant species within the marine ecosystem.

The organisms of sea otters are very sensible to contamination; therefore, they are indicators of the health of their ecosystem. Sea otters also assist in restoring seagrass beds by keeping the crab population in balance which usually lets sea slugs flourish and crunch on algae. The algae fed on by the slugs would have been used to smoother the seagrasses; hence, it indicates the importance of the sea otters. Another relevance of sea otters in California is the fact that they feed on sea urchins and other invertebrates that graze on giant kelp (Gibson, 2013). The absence of sea otters would, therefore, lead to the destruction of animals that depend on kelp habitat for survival. Furthermore, sea otters are looked at as sentry species as their health reflects the state of the Californian coastal waters.

What Has Been and Can Be Done to Protect Them?

The approach of ensuring that the sea otters are safe is something that has been considered by the US government and other related organizations. Humans in general have a perception of the need to significantly redress the environmental damage produced by human activities; the sea otters have a strong emotional link to the individuals living in the coastline of California. The humans in the region believe that the sea otters are part of their landscape, which has ultimately made NGOs and other related institutions ensure that sea otters are kept safe. The state of California had approved the Recovery Plan of 1982 according to which fishermen were supposed to keep their fishing nets away from sea otters (Defenders of Wildlife, 2004).

The Recovery Plan of 1982 is an approach that almost proved right, until oil spill started affecting the decline of the species as well. The recovery plan also focused on research by identifying several mortality causes and insisted on the need to prepare a risk management approach in the event of the oil spill. The plan entailed calling out for one greater breeding colony that would be geographically separated in a place where the eventual oil spill would not reach the species. The recovery plan entailed implementing the vital policies that could be utilized to minimize the effects of the interaction between the sea otters and fishermen (Miller & Spoolman, 2011). Apparently, the Recovery Plan was one of the primary efforts that were put into practice as a way that would eliminate the challenges faced by the sea otters.

It was in 1985 that a bill was put into practice with an intention of illegalizing the use of trammel and gill nets from Waddell Creek in Santa Cruz County to Point Sal in Santa Barbara County. Significantly, the implication here is that the department of California was trying to save the sea otters from the fishermen’s traps. The Californian Department of Game and Fish Office of Spill Prevention Response (OSPR) came up with a contingency plan, developed strategies to assess injuries and created protocols for the treatment of oiled sea otters and restoration plans (Defenders of Wildlife, 2004). OSPR started off by funding the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, which enabled training of professionals and volunteers and paid staff members to ensure that the safety of the sea otters is attained.

Furthermore, there have been established twenty four permanent facilities on alert tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that sea otters are safe. There is also the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that was established in 1973 and consists of established rules that need to be followed so as to protect the endangered species. The Act also proposes that the endangered species should not be killed, hunted or wounded. The Act also goes to the extent of mandating the efforts that have to be made so as to recover the species. A management zone was also established in 1986 to reduce sea otter-fishery conflict (Miller & Spoolman, 2011). The management zone in this case was an area outside the parent range in which sea otters were not permitted. In case the sea otters opt to move into the management zone, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is permitted by law to move them back to the parent range.

After years of scientific research, the United States Wildlife Service decided to end its “no-otter-zone” program in 2012. It was an essential step as it has ensured that there is free movement of the otters without being harmed for any purpose. Additionally, there is the sea otter awareness week that falls on the last week of September and is an annual recognition of the significance function that sea otters play in the near-shore environment. The event is often meant to help the public identify the history and challenges that sea otters go through and what needs to be incorporated so as to ensure that their safety is upheld (Beckman, 2012). The event is vital as it has significantly contributed to the issue of ensuring the safety of the sea otters. Thus, the steps being taken in the modern society are important as the lives of the sea otters in California are seen as valuable. The sea otter awareness week is meant to making the public aware of the importance of helping the sea otters by telling them about the kind of challenges they go through. The approach is often used as a strategy because it teaches and proposes ways that need to be utilized so as to counter the increasing challenge for the sea otters. Based on the fact that the event usually involves people of all ages, it is an appropriate one as the event is believed to have generated several positive results (Miller & Spoolman, 2011). The results are positive because participants are enlightened on the significance of keeping the sea otters safe within their ecosystem.

Another approach that is being used in the modern world to counter the problems faced by the sea otters of California is the California Sea Otter Fund Campaign. The program is promoted annually by Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO) and other relevant departments with an intention of informing California’s tax payers of the chance to contribute towards the otter research and conservation efforts. Another effort that has been made is launching of a Facebook page being managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to promote the Fund. The implication here is that modern technology has also been considered so as to effectively reach out to the young generation as they are the primary users of Facebook (VanBlaricom & Estes, 2012). Moreover, the insinuation here is that major efforts are being made so as to make sure that sea otters in California are safely protected from any possible harm.

The presence of the California Sea Otter Fund is important as they support researchers and other individuals working to comprehend the issues faced by the sea otters. The assistance offered by the California Sea Otter Fund is vital as it often enables the researchers to come up with better ways that can be sued to evade challenges faced by the species. Additionally, the California Sea Otter Fund also contributes towards educational efforts that are initiated so as to safeguard the sea otters of California. Significantly, efforts utilized in California are important as they are directed towards ensuring that the decline does not continue and the rights of the sea otters are upheld (Larson, Bodkin, & VanBlaricom, 2014). Fundamentally, what the California institutes are doing is important because it is meant to help the sea otters feel comfortable within their ecosystem.

Conclusion

To sum up, it is apparent that the issues faced by the sea otters in California are not few, but instead several, and, hence, the proposed ways need to be practiced to achieve positive results. The paper shows that the sea otters often face challenges ranging from oil spills to predators. Oil spills are said to be the major reason for sea otters decline because of how they affect the species. The oil spill usually affects the sea otters both internally and externally, hence, it is a very dangerous challenge to the animal species. Another challenge is the white shark that causes harm to the species. The white shark is the other threat to the sea otters of California as it either feeds on them or kills them.

The fishermen have also been identified as a threat as they often meet in the same fishing ecosystem. The outcome of meeting in the ecosystem is that the human being ends up killing the sea otter so as to get the needed fish for their consumption. The two parties end up at the same fishing grounds because they all feed on the same type of fish, i.e. the lobsters. As a result, they both compete for the food; hence, it raises the issue of killing the sea otters in order to get the food first. Infectious diseases also contribute to the decline of the sea otters’ population. Furthermore, there is also the limitation of food, which also leads to the decline of the species’ population. Apparently, the sea otters in California have numerous threats that are contributing towards the decline of their population.

As a result of the challenges affecting the sea otters, California has come up with strategies that can be initiated so as to evade or eliminate the issues. Therefore, one of the strategies that have been put into practice is the use of the California Sea Otter Fund that supports researchers and other related individuals to understand the issues affecting the animals and the measures that need to be taken to counter the problem. The California Sea Otter Fund also has a Facebook page that it uses to enlighten the public on the issues associated with the sea otters of California.

The use of Facebook is vital because it is a modernized way that is utilized to reach a bigger platform. Therefore, the use of Facebook has ensured that the young people who are the primary users of social networks understand the importance of caring for the sea otters. There is also the California Sea Otter Fund Campaign planned every year with the intention of enlightening the public on the significance of safeguarding the sea otters of California. The program usually involves different departments that sensitize the public on the problems faced by the sea otters and propose ways that can be used to get rid of the threats.

There is also the sea awareness week being used as a strategy to eliminate the challenges faced by the sea otters. The event is often held with the intention of teaching the public on the issues associated with the sea otters’ wellbeing and the ways of dealing with the problems appropriately.

Another strategy that was used at the initial stage to deal with the threats faced by the sea otters is the Recovery Plan of 1982 entailed to call out for one more breeding colony that would be naturally separated from others in a place where the eventual oil spill would not reach the species. Furthermore, the plan was meant to initiate the fundamental principles that could possibly be used to reduce the effects of the connection between the sea otters and fishermen.

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