OK, here's the whole story...

[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ California Scuba Diving BBS ] [ FAQ ]

Posted by seahunt on October 08, 1999 at 17:17:56:

In Reply to: Re: That's not the whole story... posted by kelphead on October 07, 1999 at 18:34:14:

mike, i don't pretend to be a marine biologist or
even consider myself an amateur 'expert' on this
issue, and i have held high regards of your scuba
diving opinions (and will continue to in the future)
but your comment about the otters, i think, is a
little out of line here.
>>>I have a degree in intertidal marine biology and
am an expert on ecology.

are you SERIOUSLY blaming the otter population for
starving themselves in the current environmental
>>> Yes.

i truly hope you didn't mean what you wrote there.

otters have SUCCESSFULLY survived in the MILLIONS
from the southern california coastline ALL THE WAY
NORTH AND AROUND TO SIBERIA (the kamchatka peninsula)
for thousands of years.

there are 3 species of otters, the alaska one lives
more on the land than its southern california cousin,
but to blame the california otter species for its
pitiful existence smacks a little of ignorance--or
>>> Or experience with them. They are food limited.
That is just a facet of their ecology. They live in a
constant state of near starvation like a number of
other natural species. The tuna are a very notable
example of this. The winter storms come, otters start
eating purple urchins that do not provide enough
nutrition and they starve. Normal occurence. There was
lots of game in the areas they moved into. Remember,
humans basically don't take shorts and there were still
plenty of legals left before the otters got there.
Diving was mostly too remote for the area to get
cleaned up much.

actually, the truth of the matter is that otters have
a very diverse diet and will eat many types of marine
life keeping many marine species in check. the over
population of the purple sea urchin had nothing to do
w/the sea otters eating themselves to the point of
starvation--it was DIRECTLY due to the otter fur trade
that ran all the way from california to the canadian
lands, which, i'm sure, you are aware of.
>>>The local tribes were eating the otters before the
Europeans came, but otters eating themselves to
starvation is the norm, not something new or unique.
It occured before humans made it to the new world.
And boy oh boy, do they keep many marine species in
check. As I said, dive in an otter area and see how
well they keep things in check. If something is vaguely
edible and vaguely accessable, it's gone.

as far as their current starvation situation, that
is directly due to the sea otter competing w/humans
for resources--the fishing industry is starving the
sea otter population (and will pretty soon run themselves
out of business), despite the fact that they are
considered a protected species.
>>>Actually, the fishing industry doesn't effect the
otters. It starves the seals and sea lions, but that is
another story. Currently, there is no fishery in the
otter areas that competes with the otters for food.
They remove any possible economic incentive for a
commercial fishery and sport hunting is a joke. You
should hear the stories of the diving near Morro Bay
and Montane De Oro before the otters.

no, mike, i think either i misinterpreted what you
wrote, or i think you are mistaken w/your words.

i am not an evironmental 'nazi', but after learning
quite a bit about the status of our world oceans
and knowing what mankind has already done to the land--
worldwide, i would be very hardpressed to EVER blame
an animal of nature for ecological disaster. nature
actually had a perfect balance going until humans learned
about technology. and when something in nature gets
screwed up, it can be difficult to re-establish 'the
>>> Sorry, there is no such thing as a perfect ecological
balance. Species wipe out other species all the time. True,
humans have been unparelleled in their destructiveness, but
otters are one specie that can compete.


I have extensive experience with not only otters, but also
with the debates about them. When they were translocated
to San Nicolas Island (ideologically well meaning, but
disasterous, luckily) the powers that be wanted to close
San Nic to diving so that the otters would not be disturbed.
Well, watching them little rodents mating in Monterey harbor
while boats are zipping by, made me conclude that the are
very hard to disturb. That arguement, like most about nature,
was ideologically based, not based on truth.
Otters, left to themselves will remove all mollusks and many
of the echoniderms. They will live in their natural state of
constant near starvation. There will be small isolated
populations of various species that they eat. There will be
no human take of game because that would push these species
over the edge. Sea life that the diver experiences will be
fish, starfish and assorted filter feeders. Not only that, but
without the prey species of the otters to eat the algaes, the
algae gets so thick that it becomes basically impossible to
dive and I do mean for me. Forget it for beginners.
This is an issue of ideology. My knowledge says you can have
otters or you can have a regulated sport and commercial
harvest. All diving will become far more difficult. I choose
that the otters should have a restricted range. The Central
Coast is an excellent niche for them and it is fairly
inaccessable to divers. They can have theirs and I want the
rest for divers. I feel that they should be restricted to the
area between Point Conception and Point Reyes. That is about
400 miles of excellent habitat. Oh, the arguement against that
is that one oil spill could wipe them out. Unlike the people
pushing the otter agenda, I honestly do look at both sides of
the arguements and admit to both. I don't think that that will
happen in that area.
It's the same thing when they love to show you the pitiful
pictures of birds covered in oil from oil spills. It looks
horrible and is emotionally terrible, but objectively, it's
irrelevant. No one mentions that oil spills are natural. Huge
oil spills. You should read what Captain Cook had to say about
Santa Monica Bay when he was there. Oil spills are natural
enough that most intertidal species have defenses against oil.
Birds have never evolved them because their strategy is rapid
re-colonization based on their ability to fly.
Have you ever gone diving in the extensive lush kelp forests of
the central coast? I've visited them from Pismo Beach to Monterey,
Santa Cruz and up to San Francisco. Where there are otters, they
seem barren compared to other areas. As I said before, find a
likely looking ledge and it will actually be scraped clean from
repeated otter visits. Algae gets so thick in many places that I
cannot dive it.
Look at it from a point of bio-diversity and bio-mass. When the
otters show up, bio-diversity goes down and animal bio-mass
plumets. Simple ecology. There is nothing ideological about that,
but how we deal with it and what we choose, is.
Maybe I'm wrong and no natural species should be harvested. Any
demand for these species should be filled by aqua culture. Maybe
one day humans can live in completely self contained archologies
and not impact the natural environment. I mean, if you really want
to know about ecological disaster, check out the other side of my
web page, but that's another story.
Maybe humans should not indulge their hunting instincts. Maybe
game management regulations should be better formulated
(absolutely). I enjoy hunting underwater though. I know that
ongoing regulated commercial and sport harvesting of wild crops
is sustainable, but I also know that it is not possible with
otters in the picture.
It is so sad that game management policies are almost always
determined by ideology, economics or politics. The ecological
facts almost never enter the picture.
I hate to admit it, but honestly speaking I must say that there
should be a regulated commercial take of abalone on the north
coast. I don't like that idea, but my training shows me that
and my honesty forces me to admit it.
It's just a matter of them being cute and fuzzy. Other than that,
from an objective point of view, they are a one specie disaster
for the existing lush ecology. It would be really neet to see a
fire breathing dragon, but after a few forest fires, the novelty
would quickly wear off.
From a personal point of view, I would hate to see what otters
would do to the diving if their range was unrestricted. It is
either them or us or a restricted range. I think a restricted
range is a reasonable compromise. It is also what the law says
and was accepted by the pro-otter groups. Now they are violating
their agreement as they always intended to do. Their ideology
gives excuse for their dishonesty. I prefer truth. I also believe
humans have a place in this.
I look at it as a choice between A and B:
A. Restrict the otters to Point Conception to Say San Francisco Bay.
That's about half the California Coast and leave the popular north
and south coast reefs to the divers and commercial harvesters the
way it is now with excellent diving. (Need new game management
B. Let the otters spread and completely remove all sport and
commercial take of non-fish game. (May not be true for Cortez
Banks nsince they are out of reach of ottrs, but). Make the
shallow diving in the state almost impossible to do. Remove
almost all mollusks and most echoniderms from the deep
Please tell me your decision. It won't change that the normal
state for otters is near starvation and an increase in disease
from that. Oh, and correct me if you think anything I say is
in error. Also, please state whether you have ever gone diving
in the Central Coast.
Whether we agree or not, thanks for your thoughts.
Enjoy the diving, seahunt

Follow Ups:

Post a Followup




[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ] [ California Scuba Diving BBS ] [ FAQ ]