Sea Otter Awareness Week
Whatever your busy schedule may look like, we suspect that after taking one look at this adorable photo, you'll want to squeeze in time to participate in the awesomeness that is Sea Otter Awareness Week.
Held during the last week of September, this worldwide annual tradition is celebrating its 10th year of acknowledging the essential role that sea otters play in the nearshore ecosystem. Take a moment to brush up on your sea-otter facts.
Why are sea otters important?
Sea otters are a keystone species — that is, they play a major role in the maintenance of the marine ecosystem in which other species are dependent upon for survival. Because they do not have any insulating body fat, they must eat massive amounts to stay warm, making them the top predator in their ecosystem. This, in turn, regulates other species from thinning kelp forests, which thousands of organisms rely on for support. As for us humans, we not only enjoy watching them frolic playfully in the water, but they also serve as an indicator species for biologists: their health reflects the conditions of their environment as a whole.
What issues are sea otters facing?
Their population is declining. Sea otters — extremely curious creatures — often get tangled in fishing nets and traps. They also digest things recreationally or commercially harvested. In addition, industrial and agricultural chemicals that carry pathogens run off into the oceans, further contributing to sea otter mortality.
What can you do to help?
There are a large number of non-governmental agencies, educators, and researchers involved in minimizing fishing-net entrapment, chemical runoffs, and maximizing the purchase of sustainably harvested products. For more information, check your local aquariums, zoos, and marine institutions, to name a few, in order to find out how you can help this keystone species remain vital to its ecosystem. Plus, who can resist a face like the one above?!
--Christine Nguyen / image by iStockphoto/AndreValadao
Here's a fun little bonus video of how curious, adorable, and playful sea otters can be: