What we can learn from California sea otter surfing

What we can learn from California sea otter surfing

From the surface, Monterey Bay appears as a calm expanse of deep blue from Santa Cruz in the northwest to the city of Monterey in the southeast. But beneath its turbulent waves, it is one of the most diverse oceans in the world – often called the Serengeti ocean. With hundreds of kilometers of coastline, a tangle of 50m (175ft) tall floating kelp trees and a hidden underwater chasm that reaches 3.8km (2.3 miles) deep, the bay is home to some of the sea’s most abundant and well-known creatures, including rays, sharks, dolphins, and whales.

However, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary also attracts a large number of tourists. And the most popular tourist spots just happen to be sea otters. This is the “nearshore”, and includes the shallow waters along the coast, with its forests, rock pools, and lagoons – places where it is common to find kayakers, paddleboarders, surfers and divers around the furry bodies of sea otters. sleeping dramatically, their little feet and arms in the air, while floating on their backs.

Since the 841’s popularity began, things have changed, and most of the abuse is now on the other side. One local photographer, who was watching the sea otter on the nearby cliffs, reported some of the busiest times ever – with people trying to get close to him every few minutes. The species requires a lot of personal space, and visitors are advised to stay at least 18m (60ft) away, the equivalent of five kayak-lengths. Now some are close to 841 and others are within arm’s reach.

Even before the flurry of interest in sea otters in Monterey Bay, Gena Bentall – director of the conservation charity Sea Otter Savvy – was studying the relationship between the animals and divers. He told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that he was “deeply moved” by the ongoing disruption.

This common human intervention can have a surprisingly disproportionate impact. A sea otter’s life is naturally energy-intensive, and each adult must eat about a fifth of its body weight in seafood each day to fuel its rapid grooming habits, keep its body warm and hungry. When they are on the surface they should be free, and there is a small margin to dive away from disturbing people.

In fact, the one otter directly affected by this latest incident is 723 – the mother of sea otter 841. She was euthanized as a puppy and raised as part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Otter Program, where she was cared for by Darth Vader-like human helmets. metal and black cap – to prevent his association with people. anything good, like food.

Like the hundreds of other sea otter pups they have rehabilitated, 723 was cleaned until it resembled a tube of fluff with eyes – to simulate grooming they must remain waterproof – wrapped in fake kelp, to simulate their lifestyle in the sea, and taught the behavior they would need in the wild as a gray a grown-up sea urchin, who was taking care of his missing parent. Then one day, he was released.

“And after he was out in the wild for nine months, we saw a lot of people illegally feeding him, and [reports] Being fed led her to get closer to people on the water – in kayaks, especially,” said Jess Fujii, sea otter program manager. Sea otter 723 was returned to the care of the Monterey Bay Aquarium – where staff. After raising 841 herself, her daughter was eventually released, and the whole cycle started again..

But the effects of human presence near where sea otters live do not even require them to enter the water. In recent decades, many of the sea otter strandings in California have been consolidated Toxoplasma gondii – a parasite known for its unusual ways of altering the behavior of its hosts, and its complex life cycle involving cats. It is usually found through exposure to cat faeces, and sea otters are thought to appear after periods of heavy rain, when the soil – which contains pet faeces – washes into the sea. In the past, this has been suggested as one of the reasons for the declining population of sea otters.

Even in the vastness of Monterey Bay, sea otters cannot escape human activity. However, there is also another threat – the reason why they can’t even extend their range to the sea, away from kelp beds, surfers and parasite-riddled. And it comes with 300 teeth.

#learn #California #sea #otter #surfing

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