written by: AlyssaAst•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 11/20/2010
Sea otters are among the numerous species of animals that can be found on the endangered species list. Many factors have caused the population of the endangered sea otters to become threatened. With many conservation efforts in place, the sea otter population is slowly increasing.
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Endangered Sea Otters
There are numerous species and sub-species of endangered sea otters. Sadly, the main reason the sea otters have become endangered is due to the acts of humans. The top reason sea otters are endangered is because of the demand from the fur trade.
Despite their high intelligence, the otters are actually very easy to kill because they lack fear of humans. They are often easily captured on shorelines. Otters lack the ability to properly defend themselves from their attackers. This makes them ideal for the fur industry. An otter pelt can sell for thousands of dollars. Not only are the otters hunted for their pelts, but for food as well. These two threats have quickly diminished the otter population.
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North Pacific Fur Seal Act
In 1910, the North Pacific Fur Seal Act protected the sea otters from the fur industry as they were balancing on the verge of extinction. At this time, a biologist named Karl Kenyon estimated there were only 1,000 to 2,000 otters left in the wild. Despite the protection law, the otters continued to be hunted up until 1917 in the North Pacific, mainly by the Russians.
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Marine Mammal Protection Act
The North Pacific Fur Seal Act gradually began increasing the endangered sea otters population. The Alaskan Department of Game began hunting the otters to collect their pelts for data in 1950. This caused the otter population to yet again decrease. In 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed, which banned the hunting of otters in the United States waters. Only Native Alaskans are permitted to hunt the otters but only under certain circumstances and limitations. With this act in place, the sea otter population quickly began to thrive.
Just as the population began to thrive, the sea otter population took a huge loss. In 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil spill is believed to be responsible for about 10,000 otter deaths. After the oil spill occurred, it appears the otter population is continuing to decrease due to the acts of mankind and nature. Since the oil spill, the otters have yet to regain a steady population, causing them to remain on the endangered species list.
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Although it is still illegal to hunt for otter pelts, the otters remain illegally hunted. New inventions by man are posing a new threat for the otters, which are vessel strikes. The otters are also becoming entangled in fishing equipment and nets. Due to the lack of food for killer whales, an increased number of sea otters are now falling victim to these whales.
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Current Conservation Projects
Many countries and regions across the world are now banning the hunting of otters. The ban on hunting for otters has caused the population number to increase, but sadly, the otters continue to be hunted illegally. This has caused a very slow incline in the otter population.
Many facilities now breed otters in captivity to try to reestablish a plentiful otter population. Even with these efforts in place, it appears many species of otter are dangerously close to extinction. The aquatic ecosystems rely on otters for many reasons. Without otters, many aquatic ecosystems can be forever altered.