Re: Ode To The Sea Urchin

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Posted by msblucow on January 04, 2000 at 23:26:55:

In Reply to: Ode To The Sea Urchin posted by seahunt on January 04, 2000 at 12:11:56:

Oh boy, here we go again....

First of all , let's get one thing straight. Otters are in no way, shape or form having a 'comeback'. In fact, over the last 10 years or so, their population growth has been leveling out. There are many theories about this and it's a very complex issue, but the major contenders are polution and habitat pressures from sea-side developement.

Secondly, let's review history. Before the 1800's, sea otters and other marine mammals, abalone, sea urchin, etc.,etc.,etc...existed in ecological balance. Then came European hunters with the fur and oil trade. Boom! There goes sea otters, sea lions, whales, etc., etc., etc. Boom! There explodes the abalone and sea urchin (and anything else that just had it's preditors wiped out) populations. Then by the 1970's or so, the abalone population is just about wiped out by over-harvesting and pollution. Sea urchins, not nearly as tasty as their cousins the abalone, continue to explode in population until they are the dominant invertibrate on the sea floor in California. Meanwhile, conservation efforts begin to haul the sea otter, sea lion, gray whale, etc.,etc.,etc... back from the brink of extinction. And, to a point, it works. So far, so good.

So now we're at the present. The gray whale is doing great, the sea lion couldn't be better, the otters still need a lot of help, but at least their numbers aren't down in the hundreds like they were a couple of decades ago. They're even starting to reclaim their historical ranges, spreading out a bit so that when the big oil spill hits (and I do mean *when*, not *if*), the entire population won't be wiped out. Meanwhile our lowly friend the California sea urchin has gained the attention of Asian food markets and sushi chefs from around the world and suddenly they are the target of bottom-scraping, sein-net carrying trawlers desperate to find another market to exploit.

Which brings me to my last point. It's easy for seahunt and others like him to point to the sea otter and say, "It's all your fault!". By targeting the warm and fuzzy sea otter, he gets to target the warm and fuzzy-headed political liberals he dislikes so much. You know, the ones who set limits on lobsters, the ones who only let you free-dive for abalone north of San Fran., the ones who want to protect the Channel Islands from ALL hunters, sport and commercial alike, so that others who don't hunt can enjoy these wonder in perpetuity.

Sure sea otters are cute and fuzzy. But that's not a reason to defend them. They're to be defended because they BELONG here. All the way to Baja. They're historically important predators neccessary to the balanced ecology of our waters. And their population is still incredibly fragile, no matter how much sport hunters howl to the contrary. If seahunt and his friends cared as much about the health of California waters as they do about their weekly take of lobsters, they ought to be on the horn to Washington, demanding an end to destructive harvesting of sea urchin, shrimp, squid and other sea 'products'.

So there. That's my rant. Let the games begin...

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