IUCN Otter Specialist Group . . . leading global otter conservation Last Update: Tuesday August 9, 2011
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Sea Otters 2008

Angela Doroff
July 2008

California Sea Otters: Population Recovery Continues at Slower Rate

California's southern sea otter, a threatened population on the Endangered Species list, continues to recover, but at a rate that appears to have slowed. USGS scientists say the latest 3-year average (2,826 sea otters)
was 0.3 percent higher than last year's 3-year average, representing a slower rate of increase than they have seen in recent years. For southern sea otters to be considered for removal from the Endangered Species list,
the 3-year running averages would have to exceed 3,090 for 3 continuous years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Southern Sea Otter Recovery Plan. Differences in weather conditions, otter distribution
and other factors contribute to the year-to-year variance in survey numbers. Graphs, maps and other information on spring surveys of the California sea otter population are available at http://www.werc.usgs.gov/otters/ca-surveys.html. For more information, contact Tim Tinker at 831-459-2357 or ttinker@usgs.gov, or Brian Hatfield at 805-927-3893 or brian_hatfield@usgs.gov.

Sea Otters 2007

Angela Doroff
December 2007

2007 Southern Sea Otter Update Meeting
Tuesday 11 December 2007, Seymour Marine Discovery Center, Long Marine Laboratory, Santa Cruz, California, USA from 8:30am till 4:30pm

Sea Otters 2006

General News

The Seattle Aquarium began planning their International Sea Otter Conservation Workshop to be held in March 2007
Abstracts (PDF 1MB)


  • THe 4th Marine Mammal Holarctic Conference was held in St. Petersburg, Russia, in September.  The status and trends of the sea otter population in Russia were presented by Sergey and Svetlana Kornev, Nadezhda Zimneko, and Alexander Burdin.  Rosa Meehan presented information on the U.S. sea otter population.
  • Sea otter surveys continued in the Commander Islands, Russia for population trend.  The population is believed to be at equilibrium density in this region.
  • In a joint collaboration, The Alaska Sealife Center, the Kamchatka Institute, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U. S. Geological Survey conducted a 3rd year of sea otter studies on Bering Island, Commander Islands, Russia.  This year, 27 sea otters were radio-implanted and are being monitored for population studies.


  • The northern sea otter population in British Columbia was designated Endangered in April 1978. The status was re-examined and confirmed Threatened in May 2000. 

United States

Northern Sea Otters, Alaska

  • A Recovery Team meeting was held to continue work on a recovery plan under the Endangered Species Act for the southwest population stock that is currently listed as threatened.
  • Since 2002, unusually high sea otter mortality in Southcentral Alaska has been documented.  A high number of the cases were diagnosed as having died from valvular endocarditis/septicemia and we consistently cultured a member of the Streptococcus bovis/equinus complex identified as Streptococcus infantarius spp. coli from these animals.  In August, 2006, the National Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events declared this occurrence to be an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) for this species in Alaska.  Investigations of the mortality event are ongoing.
  • The U. S. Geological Survey continues to finalize studies conducted to understand the impacts of the Exxon Valdez oil spill (1989) on sea otters in  Prince William Sound, Alaska. 
  • Habitat studies continued in Glacier Bay National Park and along the Alaska Peninsula in a joint program of the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park system.
  • Due to funding constraints, there were no major population surveys conducted in 2006 for northern sea otters in Alaska.  Adak Island in the central Aleutian chain was surveyed for population trend.

Southern Sea Otters, California

  • A southern sea otter research meeting was held in December to present current information on the population status, recovery, and specific information needs for this threatened population.  In joint collaborations, the State, Oiled Care Wildlife Network, U. C. Santa Cruz, U.C. Davis, Monterey Bay Aquarium, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey, and multiple conservation groups presented on population status, health and condition, and wild population studies.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium in collaboration with the U. S. Geological Survey initiated a behavior study in the Monterey Bay area this year.
  • In a jointly developed funding initiative, the State of California, U.C. Davis and the Defenders of Wildlife have gotten a tax check off box to support wildlife conservation studies for threatened or endangered species, including southern sea otters http://www.defenders.org/seaotter/taxday.html
  • Tues., Feb. 6, 2007, 7:30 PST, KQED-TV (public television, San Francisco, Channel 9): California sea otter research is featured in Sea Otters Mystery, during the debut of “Quest,” a new science, nature and education series on . Sea otter scientists from the USGS, University of California at Santa Cruz, California Department of Fish and Game, and Monterey Bay Aquarium were interviewed and filmed for the sea otter story. See viewing schedule: http://www.kqed.org. The TV program will be rebroadcast several times during the week. Both TV and radio segments (radio premiered on 2/2/07 on KQED 88.5 FM San Francisco and 88.1 KQEI FM Sacramento) will stream online at http://kqed.org/quest.