Aquarium To Observe Sea Otter Awareness Week

September 20, 2006

Juergen Eckstein 7534 SW Surfland Street South Beach, OR 97366 Web. www.JuergenEckstein.com e-mail HYPERLINK "mailto:DJECKSTEIN@peak.org" DJECKSTEIN@peak.org Artist Statement

Activities will inform visitors about the loveable marine mammals

The Oregon Coast Aquarium will observe Sea Otter Awareness Week September 24 – September 30, a week long event to educate the public about the integral role that sea otters play in the marine ecosystem. The week long event will include talks by mammalogists, sea otter crafts and an abundance of literature about sea otters’ natural history and amazing adaptations. The Oregon Zoo and other zoos and aquariums around the nation will also be observing Sea Otter Awareness Week with information and activities to inform the public about the sea otters and their importance to our ecosystem. For more information about national observances, visit www.defenders.org/seaotter/awareness.

Sea Otter Awareness Week Schedule:

September 24th – September 30th

  • All Day - Sea otter bio fact table with volunteers (in Sandy Shores)"

Sunday, September 24th

  • All Day - Precipice of Survival Qwest Theater
  • 1:30 pm - Talk by husbandry staff (Mammalogist Ken Lytwyn) – Qwest Theater
  • 10 am – 3 pm - Sea otter mask – in Sandy Shores

Friday, September 29th

  • 2:00 pm - Talk by education staff – Qwest Theater

Saturday, September 30th

  • All Day - Precipice of Survival Qwest Theater
  • 1:30 pm - Talk by husbandry staff (Curator of Mammals, Judy Tuttle) – Qwest Theater
  • 10 am – 3 pm - Sea otter mask - in Sandy Shores

Also featured will be the documentary titled Precipice of Survival which was shot around the Monterey Peninsula and traces the history of sea otters since the onset of maritime fur trade in the mid-1700’s. Central California’s threatened southern sea otter is now the focus of unprecedented study. With the help of state-of-the-art technology implanted in the animals, researchers hope to avoid the fate of sea otters in Oregon, which are now extinct. The last sea otter in Oregon was trapped near Newport in 1906. Precipice of Survival will be prefaced by an informational piece about the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s sea otters.

Sea otters once ranged in number along the coasts of the North Pacific, from Russia and northern Japan, throughout the Aleutians, down the coasts of Alaska and British Columbia, to as far south as Baja. Scientists estimate up to 300,000 sea otters once inhabited this area. That changed in 1741 when traders realized that sea otter pelts were sought after for the unusually dense fur that enables them to survive in cold seas without the blubber of whales or sea lions. Of the three remaining subspecies of sea otters around the world, two are found here in North America: the southern, or California sea otter and the northern sea otter. The third subspecies is the Russian sea otter.

Sea otters play a critical role in the marine ecosystem as a keystone species. They promote a healthy kelp forest that, in turn, supports thousands of organisms. Sea otters are also an indicator or sentinel species. They are dying of diseases that have land-based connections. Since humans and sea otters eat many of the same seafood items, high rates of sea otter disease may be a warning for both human health and marine ecosystem health.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium has participated in a sea otter breeding loan program with the Seattle Aquarium. Two sea otter pups born there are the offspring of Adaa, who was sent to Seattle on breeding loan from the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Adaa’s first pup, a male named Chugach, was born in 2005, to Aniak who was a first time mother. The second pup, named Alki, also a male, was born in 2005 to Lootas. Lootas was hand raised at the Seattle Aquarium after being found abandoned as a new born in Alaska. The pup was her fourth live birth and as an experienced mother, she did a fine job of raising Alki.

“The significance of these births is that they are the first second-generation sea otters born in captivity for the U.S. and Canada,” according to Tuttle. “There just aren’t very many Alaska sea otters in captivity and among them there aren’t many compatible breeding partners.” Seattle has the only breeding program of its kind for sea otters. The Seattle Aquarium was the first Aquarium in the world, and remains the only facility in the United States to raise northern sea otters from conception to adulthood.

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