Aquarium To Celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week

September 15, 2010

The Oregon Coast Aquarium will observe Sea Otter Awareness Week September 27 – October 3, a week-long event to educate the public about the integral role that sea otters play in the marine ecosystem. The week’s activities will include a talk about sea otters, sea otter crafts and an abundance of information about sea otters’ natural history and adaptations. Public sea otter feedings will be held at 10:30 am, 1:00 pm and 3:30 pm. For more information about national observances, visit the Defenders of Wildlife website.

Sea Otter Awareness Week Schedule:
Sunday through Saturday, September 27 – October 3
Lobby – Sea Otter Station – Learn all about the sea otter
Sea otter craftPublic sea otter feedings at 10:30 am, 1:00 pm and 3:30 pm

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.

“The Oregon Coast Aquarium is very fortunate in having the largest sea otter exhibit in North America,” said Judy Tuttle, Aquarium Curator of Mammals. “We maintain the Aquarium’s sea otter population at three to four male sea otters, including both northern and southern sea otters. Tuttle said there is a great need for homes for non-releasable males and the Oregon Coast Aquarium maintains the largest captive male population. “Only 12 aquariums and zoos in North American maintain sea otter exhibits for visitors to enjoy,” said Tuttle.