Got plans for the big coastal cleanup this weekend? We’re proud to be hosting cleanups with our Teen Conservation leaders at Casa Verde beach, and with our Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) staff at Palm Beach & Pajaro Valley High School / Watsonville Wetlands trails.
Good News For Sea Otters!
California’s sea otter population is a bit larger this year – good news for a threatened species that plays such a vital role in the health of coastal ecosystems.
Our sea otter research team joined university colleagues, and state and federal wildlife officials, in a spring otter count that tallied 2,941 animals from San Mateo County to the Santa Barbara/Ventura county line to the south.
The 2013 figure includes a record number of pups, which helped boost the three-year population average from the 2,792 average just a year ago. That is cause for “cautious optimism,” according to Tim Tinker, a sea otter biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center.
“Certainly, sea otters have made an impressive recovery in California since their rediscovery here in the 1930s,” Tinker says. “But as their numbers expand along California’s coast, they are facing ‘growing pains’ in different locales.”
Those “growing pains” include everything from disease and parasites, to limits on available food, to a rise in the number of sea otters falling victim to shark bites.
For 30 years, the Aquarium’s sea otter research team has been a key player in collaborative efforts to understand why sea otters are recovering so slowly.
They’ve come a long way.
Presumed extinct in California after the fur trade years, a remnant population of some 50 animals was rediscovered in the 1930s with the opening of Highway 1 along the remote Big Sur coast.
In addition to being a magnet for Central Coast visitors, sea otters are considered a keystone species in coastal ecosystems because they prey on invertebrates that, if left unchecked, can decimate kelp and seagrass beds and the vital fish habitat they provide.
Scientists also study sea otters as an indicator of nearshore ecosystem health, since sea otters feed and live near the coast and often are the first predators exposed to pollutants and pathogens that wash into the ocean from land.
Sea otter photo credit: ©Jim Capwell / Divecentral.com
These (eight) arms are for hugging! We’d love to know: how would you handle an octopus embrace?
Who is that masked man, and why is he dressed like that?
Answer: Our otter care staff wear disguises to prevent young otters from bonding with their caregivers, facilitating their eventual release to the wild.
Remember the girl whose playful dance with a puffin made international headlines last week? On Sunday, we invited her back for a unique opportunity to feed the puffins. Looks like they were glad to see her again, don’t you think?
Miss Our Seahorse Exhibit? We’ve Got You Covered!
In early September, we closed our “Secret Lives of Seahorses” special exhibition to make way for “Tentacles,” our next amazing exhibit focusing on octopuses, cuttlefishes and their kin. (It opens April 12, 2014.) Many of you told us how much you loved the seahorses, so we’re glad to report that we just opened a new, permanent exhibit devoted to seahorses in Splash Zone. Here’s just a glimpse of what you’ll see!
You also asked what happened to the hundreds of seahorses in the decommissioned exhibit. We’re glad to report that all of our seahorses either moved into our new exhibit, or found homes at other accredited institutions. All told, we safely shipped 74 boxes of seahorses to new homes.
For the first time, we’ve added a beautiful school of 3,500 anchovies to the Open Sea exhibit. Combined with the thousands of sardines already in the exhibit, it makes for quite a dramatic scene!
Here’s your #Friday puzzler. What is it?
Thanks to Chuck Saltsman for the great image!
Answer: It’s the tentacle of a broadclub cuttlefish.
The Aquarium Gets Awards for Sea Otter Conservation and Teen Programs
We’re flattered! The Aquarium earned two awards at this week’s annual meeting of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. These include a North American Conservation Award for our sea otter conservation program, as well as an achievement award for our Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (WATCH) program, which recognizes “the most significant innovative, productive, far-reaching, program to promote diversity.”
The Aquarium is the only institution in the country that routinely rescues and cares for stranded, ill or injured southern sea otters with the goal of release back to the wild. For the past 30 years, the sea otter program has played a key role in research and recovery efforts for this iconic marine mammal. It works to ensure their continued survival and recovery through rescue, rehabilitation and release of sea otter pups and adults; collaborative scientific research on the myriad threats that have slowed their recovery; and advocacy for policies that will support population recovery. Learn more.
WATCH is a community-based program offered to students enrolled in Pajaro Valley High School and Watsonville High School in Santa Cruz County. The year-long program begins in summer and extends throughout the school year, providing students with an opportunity to engage in an in-depth exploration of ecosystems in their community. WATCH integrates academic learning, youth development and community-based conservation projects in a way that connects students with their community and the oceans. Students earn community service hours needed for graduation and are eligible for college scholarships from the Aquarium. Learn more.
California sea otter numbers are up, according to the latest population survey conducted by researchers, including those from the Aquarium. The reasons: more pups — and the addition of San Nicolas Island otters to the count. Since the 1980s, scientists have calculated populations for the southern sea otter, a threatened species in California. For 2013, USGS lists the population as 2,941. To be considered for removal from threatened status, it would need to exceed 3,090 for three consecutive years.There’s more to be done!