Marine Ecology: Otter Count


The California Sea Otter is an endangered species. The students and staff of O’Neill Sea Odyssey are sometimes lucky enough to see these rare and beautiful animals in their natural habitat from the deck of the Team O’Neill. In the spring of 2002, 2139 sea otters were counted in California.

Otters are a keystone animal in our marine ecosystem.Sea otters protect one of our most valued resources, the kelp forest. By hunting and eating sea urchins and many other herbivorous benthic organisms the sea otter controls the populations of these animals and ensures the health of our kelp forests.

A healthy kelp forest is a sustaining environment for many of our coastal fish species. Without the sea otters to protect our kelp forests we could lose this vital habitat.

By keeping a daily count of the sea otters in one kelp forest on the central coast, we can become more aware of the habits and behaviors of our local residents. One of the best ways to protect our environment is to study, observe and learn.

The boundaries of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary encompass the California sea otter’s habitat within state boundaries. The MBNMS was designated in 1992. The National Marine Sanctuary Program began in 1972 in order to protect and preserve the wildlife and geographic features of certain ecologically sensitive areas.


The purple sea urchin. Some sea otters eat so many urchins that their teeth and bones turn purple too!

Oil pollution can ruin a sea otter’s fur so that the otter can’t keep itself warm and will die of hypothermia

The male sea otter lives about as long as the average dog, 10 to 15 years, while the female lives a little longer, 15 to 20 years.

Translate »