Sea Otter Awareness Week Sept. 23 – 29

August 22, 2007

Activities will inform visitors about the loveable marine mammals

The Oregon Coast Aquarium will observe Sea Otter Awareness Week September 23 - 29, 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. For more information about national observances, visit http://www.defenders.org/seaotter/awareness.

Sea Otter Awareness Week Schedule

September 23 – September 29

  • Each Day - Sea otter biofact table
  • Each Day - Sea otter feeding narrations

Sunday, September 23

  • Talk by mammalogist - 1:30
  • Sea otter craft - all day
  • Sea otter encounter - 12:30
  • Storytelling - 1 to 3pm

Wednesday, September 26

  • Talk by mammalogist – 1:30

Saturday, September 29

  • Sea otter craft - all day
  • Storytelling - 1 to 3pm
  • Sea otter encounter - 12:30

The last sea otter in Oregon was trapped near Newport in 1906. 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 those births is that they were the first second-generation sea otters born in captivity for the U.S. and Canada,” according to Judy Tuttle, Aquarium Curator of Mammals. “There aren’t many Alaska sea otters in captivity and among those, there aren’t many compatible breeding partners.” Tuttle said that the Seattle Aquarium has the only breeding program of its kind for sea otters.

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