Sea otters once roamed freely in the coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean. Its incredibly dense fur keeps its skin dry and facilitates its buoyancy, allowing it to sleep safely, wrapped in algae on the surface of the water. Unfortunately, this luxurious fur became so popular that otters were massively hunted. Despite conservation and reintroduction efforts, they remain threatened today.

Decrease in their number

Sea otters were once very numerous along the coasts of the Pacific Ocean, but are now on the verge of extinction due to hunting. Although their number has increased since 1900, it is again declining as a result of pollution.

Causes of extinction

  • Intensive commercial fishing creates competition with sea otters. In addition, abandoned fishing gear is a great threat to these magnificent animals. Indeed, the nets of mesh posted under the sea, and many marine mammals, including the sea otter, become entangled and drown.
  • On March 24, 1989, 11 tonnes of crude oil were spilled in Prince William Sound, Alaska, killing nearly 4,000 sea otters, or 90% of the Alaskan otter population. Chemical pollution of the seas and plastic waste continues to harm sea otter colonies.
  • Sea otter predation by killer whales has increased in recent years, mainly due to declining sea lion populations. Unfortunately, the increased density of sea urchins has destroyed many kelp forests, leaving sea otters with no choice but to move to the orca's territory.

A shrinking inhabitant

By the mid-1700s, the sea otter was nearly hunted to extinction, leaving only 13 small, fragmented colonies. Only one colony lives today on the west coast of America, in California.

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