Re: Sea Otter at PV, the first place to look for a dive instructor

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Posted by Steve Shimek on March 14, 2005 at 12:08:30:

In Reply to: Sea Otter at PV posted by Labugman on March 14, 2005 at 07:42:30:

Hi all!
My name is Steve Shimek and I am director of The Otter Project. I also used to own a dive shop in Santa Cruz, and I have many, many hours underwater. And, I have many dives down in the Channel Islands. I also have a very pro-otter point of view.
I'd like to chime in with some useful info. Although again, I'd like to bring attention to the fact that I have a pro-otter view.
140 otters were moved to San Nic in the late 80s. The San Nic group quickly declined to around 11. Today, there are around 30-40 otters at San Nic. Yes, there are rumors of otters being shot out there, but none have been found shot and no shootings have been observed at San Nic.
It is very possible that an otter was seen at PV. Otters started moving south of Point Conception in 1998. There are now resident otters all the way to Santa Barbara. The number of otters south of Pt. C ranges from 150 (1998) to 30-50 most springs. We have reports of otters as far south as central Baja.
Otters are hunters/gatherers, just like some divers. The hunter/gatherer divers don't like the competition from otters and tend to not like otters. Many divers are not hunters. Otters promote larger, more stable, more productive kelp beds. This 'kelp benefit' impact seems greater in NorCal than in SoCal (in SoCal you have sheepshead and bugs that also eat urchins that eat the kelp). But, research has shown the kelp benefit impact in SoCal as well. Healthy kelp beds tend to benefit finfish. So, there is a positive fisheries aspect to sea otter recovery.
Otters do not constantly live near starvation. That is just a false statement.
The idea that our oceans are out of whack is certainly true. Although, otters used to live in SoCal, especially at the Islands and the high number of urchins is certainly partially due to otters being eliminated from the system.
Otters do not totally eliminate urchins and abalone. In fact, there is a high density of urchins and abs off Hopkins Marine Station where otters have been for over 20 years. But, the urchins and abs are in the cracks, out of reach af ALL hunters/gatherers.
I'm certain this email will be flamed, but I certainly do respect the point of view of urchin and recreational harvesters. I have a different point of view.

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