Since 2001 DFO has led boat based and aerial surveys of Sea Otters throughout their range (Nichol et al. Heiltsuk 2008-2009 Sea Otter Survey Summary and Four Year Evaluation. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Single Sea Otters are periodically reported outside the continuous range. 91 pp. In British Columbia, Sea Otters occupy exposed coastal areas with extensive rock reefs and associated shallow depths. Sea otters were originally found throughout the north Pacific including Japan, Russia, the United States, Canada and Mexico. EnviroEmerg Consulting Services, Cowichan Bay, British Columbia. Support the development of Sea Otter viewing guidelines. Lensink. Vacca. Map altered from Serra-Sogas 2010. Sea otters eat sea urchins, which feed on seaweed. Ecological Monographs. 2004; Lance et al. Status re-examined and designated Threatened in April 1996 and in May 2000. However, relatively few carcasses, with which one can assess cause of mortality, are recovered each year in British Columbia and so the frequency of collisions is not well understood. Ecology of sea otters in Prince William Sound, Alaska, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. In contrast, Killer Whale predation may be significant in western Alaska, where dramatic declines in the Sea Otter population are underway. Diaz, A. Walli, G. Ruiz, L.B. The southern sea otter was widely believed to be extinct due to the expansive fur trade of the 18th and 19th centuries, which reduced the global population from between 150,000 and 300,000 to roughly 2,000. (2009) speculated that PAH residue levels they found in Sea Otters in Washington State may have been contributed from three oils spills that have occurred on that coast in the Sea Otter range over the past two decades. They dive for one to two minutes but can stay down for up to five minutes. Improve our understanding of the degree of interchange with adjacent populations to assess potential for rescue effect. The British Columbia coast is an active waterway with heavy vessel traffic (Figure 4) and oil spills are an ever-present threat in British Columbia waters as acute or chronic spills may occur from the cargoes of tankers and barges, bilges, fuel tanks of marine vessels, shore-based fuelling stations and even shore-based industries such as pulp mills (Shaffer et al.1990; MacConnachie et al. Kreuder C., M.A. 2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-1,1,1-trichloroethane (DDT) is a broad spectrum pesticide that was developed to control insect pests on crops. DFO Pacific region has a web page describing the Sea Otter Program and also provides information for reporting sightings of Sea Otters. Enhydra lutris. Figure 3. Oil contamination from a spill has both immediate and long-term effects on Sea Otters and the recovery of their populations. 2011). Table 3 provides a summary of conservation measures that are recommended to support the management goals and objectives outlined in the document. Garshelis. In 2002, under their Habitat Stewardship Program project, the Johnstone Strait Marine Mammal Interpretative Society created a museum in Telegraph Cove depicting local marine mammals, including Sea Otters. They’re also voracious predators and, more specifically, what ecologists call a “keystone species.” Like the central stone that locks an arch, they play a pivotal role in their environment—so pivotal that their absence or presence can trigger dramatic changes. DeGange, and B.S. Risk Assessment and Management of Spills – Marine Transportation. Sea Otters are at risk from chronic oil spills. 1984; Jameson 1989; Riedman and Estes 1990; Watson 1993). The public is encouraged to report suspicious behaviour immediately to the 24-hour Observe, Record Report line at 1-800-465-4336. 1991). [Accessed August 14, 2012]. Although Sea Otters are observed using exposed rocky coastal areas during spring and summer under good weather conditions, anecdotal observations of Sea Otters have been made in inlets and protected areas during winter and severe storms. In a small sample of beach-cast carcasses retrieved for contaminant analysis in California, those that died from infectious disease contained, on average, higher concentrations of butyltin compounds (components in antifouling paint) and DDTs than animals that had died from trauma and unknown causes (Kannan et al. 1994. 32pp. Monson, D.H., D.F. Burek, and J.A. Checleset Bay, Kyoquot Sound, Nuchatlitz, Nootka Island and Clayoquot Sound) as well as winter aerial surveys in Clayoquot Sound (2002-2008). Sea Otter Canada is an extension of the iconic Sea Otter global brand with Sea Otter Classic (arguably the world’s largest cycling festival) in Monterey, California in its 30th year. Moeller, J.M. 8C, B3-37, May 2010. Doak, B.E. Sea otters have the thickest fur of any mammal, which makes them a common target for many hunters. Mortality or evidence of exposure (in live captured animals) to PDV is reported from Alaska, PDV first appeared in the North Pacific Ocean in 2000 and it is thought the introduction of this disease may have been facilitated by reduced sea ice in Arctic waters allowing east to west transmission from the Atlantic to the Pacific (Gill et al. Bodkin, J.L., D. Mulcahy, and C.J. Hatfield, B.B., J.A. Report of a workshop to develop a research plan on chemical contaminants and health status of southern sea otters. Written by Christine Roper, Naturalist SpringTide Whale Watching & Eco Tours 1119 Wharf Street Victoria, BC. Canadian Journal of Zoology 62:637-647. Histopathologic lesions in sea otters exposed to crude oil. Status re-examined and designated Special Concern in April 2007. Ecological Applications 21(8):2917-2932. The past decade has seen their numbers soar along the B.C. 1998; Nakata et al. Prioritization of threats listed as ‘low level of concern’ was assessed by causal certainty for extent of threat in Canadian Pacific waters as well as ability to mitigate the threat. However, individual adult males establish and occupy breeding territories in female areas. Bull. 85 pp. Sediment-associated aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons in coastal British Columbia, Canada: Concentrations, composition, and associated risks to protected sea otters. Table 3 summarizes those conservation measures that are recommended to support the management goals and objectives. 2009; Goldstein et al. It has been thought not to be significant although this may change at local levels as the Sea Otter population expands its range and comes in closer proximity to human-populated areas. Figure 4. Details are provided for each threat, prioritized by level of concern, with the most significant threat listed first, as follows: environmental contaminants – oil spill (which had a corresponding high level of concern), illegal kill (medium), entanglement in fishing gear (medium), environmental contaminants – persistent bioaccumulating toxins (low), disease and parasites (low), collision with vessels (low), human disturbance (low), and directed harvest (low). Undertake annual surveys of the Sea Otter population in index areas, areas of range expansion, and other portions of their range as needed, as well as a total population survey every five years to monitor population trends and distribution. Graneli (ed.). Enbridge Northern Gateway Project 2010. Dean, A.K. Fishing gear that can cause entanglement and drowning, including nets, traps, and fishing debris, is a conservation concern for many marine species; with respect to Sea Otters, this threat is difficult to quantify as drowned Sea Otters sink and are largely undetected. Estes, and F.B. Miller, C. Kreuder, E.R. Endangered Species Update 13(12):23-27. Sea Otters were absent from Canada’s fauna for almost a hundred years. Vancouver Metro Port Authority. Patterns of mortality in the southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis), from 1998 to 2001. However with continued range expansion and increasing eco-tourism activity seeking out Sea Otter viewing opportunities or that may cause disturbance while viewing other species local areas of concern from disturbance may be emerging. Nakata, H., K. Kannan, L. Jing, N. Thomas, S. Tanabe and J.P. Giesy. The following threats have been identified and ranked by level of concern with the greatest threat to the conservation of the species appearing at the top of the table. While there is evidence of exposure to various diseases in the Sea Otter population within British Columbia, there is as yet little evidence of significant mortality resulting from disease. Simenstad, and J.A. Douben (ed). Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area proposal (draft), Environment Canada. The decline in western Alaska suggests that a better understanding and appreciation of sources of density-independent factors impacting the Canadian Sea Otter population may be warranted. 2009). The conservation measures listed in Table 3 are prioritized on a high, medium, or low scale relating to the direct contribution each measure would have on the conservation of the Sea Otter in Canada. Sea otter mortality in fish and shellfish traps: estimating potential impacts and exploring possible solutions. The extent of Sea Otter habitat is defined by water depth and the availability of food on the sea floor. One study, however, suggests that Sea Otters may be able to detect PSP and avoid clams with lethal concentrations so the contribution of this limiting factor to population regulation is not known (Kvitek et al. Gerber L.R., and G.R. [Unpublished reported prepared by J.C. Watson for] British Columbia Ministry of Water Land and Air Protection, Parks and Protected Areas Branch. There is also a possibility that the availability of pelts within First Nation communities may inadvertently create an interest in the acquisition of pelts by unauthorized people and development of an illegal market. Nichol, L.M., M.D. Ross. Shaffer, M. and Associates Ltd. 1990. (2011a) also found that though Sea Otters appear to readily metabolize or excrete parent PAHs, there is a retention and biomagnification of alkyl PAHs. The Mammals of British Columbia. Show Your Support With a Donation. PLoS ONE 5(9):e12576. International Journal for Parasitology 35:1155-1168. But the otters currently enjoy protection from harm and harassment under federal and provincial laws, although Indigenous groups can apply to hunt a limited number for food, social and ceremonial purposes. 2003, Short et al. Major marine vessel casualty risk and response preparedness in British Columbia [PDF 23.3 Mb]. Overall, the threat ofentanglement in fishing gear is currently considered to be a “medium” level of concern. (2011b) measured hydrocarbons from the habitat of Sea Otter in coastal British Columbia and found that PAHs in the sediment exceed quality guidelines designed to protect aquatic biota at 20% of the sites. 2003. The only sea otters near Vancouver are the four living at the Vancouver Aquarium. Estes. Watson, J.C. 1995. Due to potential chronic oil exposure, Harris et al. 2007. Transmission of Toxoplasma: Clues from the study of sea otters as sentinels of Toxoplasma gondii flow into the marine environment. 2009. 2007). 395 pp. DFO established a small internal working group of technical experts to develop the initial draft of this Management Plan. © Copyright 2021 St. Joseph Communications. 1984; Wendell et al. Sea-otters: Their role in structuring nearshore communities. British Columbia Parks. The British Columbia transplant of sea otters Enhydra lutris. Williams, T.M., R.A. Kastelein, R.W. However, British Columbia has limited tugboat capacity relative to the amount of coastline to ensure timely rescue in such a situation (Reid 2008). Larson, S., R. Jameson, M. Etnier, M. Flemings. United States Fish and Wildlife Service [USFW ]. The museum is open May to September. 2010). These include threats not only to Sea Otters but also to their habitat. Support development and use of alternative population survey methods to better quantify uncertainty in population estimates. Appendix C: Record of Cooperation and Consultation. Bioaccumulation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons by marine organisms. At this time, the areas of the British Columbia coast most at risk from oil spills, based on intensity of shipping activity, are Juan de Fuca Strait, west coast Vancouver Island and west coast Haida Gwaii (MacConnachie et al. 2009). The following three broad strategies support the management objectives outlined in Section 5. in: P.E.T. National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Seattle, and Makah Tribal Fisheries Management Division, Neah Bay. Marine Mammal Science 5:159-172. Domoic acid, a biotoxin produced by certain diatom species and some marine algae, can accumulate in filter feeding shellfish and is also passed up through the food change as an accumulating toxin. Douben (ed). Coastal Marine Ecology and Conservation Lab, School of Resource and Environmental Management (REM), Simon Fraser University. The British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection revised and re-issued a booklet on Sea Otters as part of their Species at Risk series in 2002. Lowenstine, P.A. 2006). The history of the otter is unique in that its disappearance along Canada's West Coast coincided with rapid population growth of non-Indigenous people. 2009. Phocine Distemper Virus in Northern Sea Otters in the Pacific Ocean, Alaska, USA. Irons. The comeback took 50 years, and no small amount of human intervention. Grigg. Sarcocystis nerona is another parasite thought to be terrestrial in origin causing mortality among southern Sea Otters (Kreuder et al. Incidental entanglements of Sea Otters in salmon set-nets have been reported in Alaska and Washington (USFW 1994; Gearin et al. Ballachey, B.E., J.L. Doroff, A.M., J.A. Diet and foraging behaviour of sea otters in Southeast Alaska. 2009). 1997). It’s not long, however, before several more otters surface and surround the vessel. Estes, J.A., M.T. Ballachey, D.B. Environmental Science and Technology 32:1169-1175. California had an estimated population of 2,711 animals in 2010. Estes. To fuel their metabolism they need adequate food. Indirect food web interactions: sea otters and kelp forest fishes in the Aleutian Archipelago. The extent of mortality from other sources such as entanglement in fishing gear, vessel strikes and illegal killing is only crudely estimated at this time. Jameson, R.J. 1989. Section 52 Application. 2006; Brancato et al. Ames, T.E. There are oil spill response plans in place, although they are not specific to conservation of wildlife, or Sea Otters in particular. An assessment of abundance and growth of the sea otter (Enhydra lutris) population in British Columbia. Overall, domoic acid outbreaks seem less common in Canadian Pacific coastal waters than in Washington and California (Klaus Shaillie pers. Stability, resilience and phase shifts in rocky subtidal communities along the west coast of Vancouver Island. On the central British Columbia coast growth has been 11.4% per year (1990 to 2008) (Nichol et al. Lillard, C. 1989. 2010. Estes, J.L.Bodkin, and D.B. For the central coast this includes continuous expansion from the southern end of the Goose Group, northward through Queens Sound to Cape Mark at the edge of Milbanke Sound and also in an area off Aristazabal Island. Nearly 1,000 Sea Otter carcasses were recovered within the first six months, and acute mortality estimates ranged from 2,650 (Garrott et al. Loughlin T.R. 1998. Harris. 2014. 2004) and seem to be strongly influenced by oceanographic characteristics (Whyte et al. Research is needed to investigate this interaction. (1998) hypothesize that because of dramatic declines in seal and sea lion populations in response to a large-scale ecosystem shift, mammal-eating Killer Whales have switched to preying on Sea Otters in western Alaska and are the cause of the observed decline in the Sea Otter population. 2009). By 2008, Sea Otters on the central British Columbia coast ranged continuously from the southern end of the Goose Group, northward through Queens Sound to Cape Mark at the edge of Milbanke Sound and also in an area off Aristazabal Island (Figure 2). 2010). British Columbia Provincial Museum Handbook No. Prepared for: Habitat Stewardship Program. 2002. 1986; Jameson 1989). 1998. Toxic Marine Phytoplankton. By 1911, when an international treaty afforded the creatures some protection, they had shrunk to … The effect of oil spills on Sea Otters is well documented (e.g. no. 1982; Watson 1993; Estes and Duggins 1995). Assess the potential impacts of fisheries including competition for prey resources, bycatch and entanglement in fishing gear, and illegal mortality. Journal of Animal Ecology 59:385-401. Attributes describe include extent, occurrence, frequency, severity, causal certainty, and level of concern. 2008b. U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. 2005. Staedler, and M.D. The influence of some or all of these current threats may affect behaviour, physiology, immune response, habitat use, and result in direct or indirect mortality. Figure 3 is a map highlighting the distribution of chronic oil spill probability of occurrence within Canadian Pacific waters, with red lines representing areas of Sea Otter range. However, White Sharks occur rarely in our waters and shark attack is not considered a source of predation in British Columbia. Species at Risk Act Management Plan Series. 2009. Johnson, M.M. The observed prevalence of disease and variety of diseases in southern Sea Otters are of concern, and it is speculated that, in addition to the effect of pathogens transported into the Sea Otters’ habitat, decreased immune function may be a factor influencing Sea Otter immune response. Allowing affected communities to control the animal might offer some redress. 2000. rocky crevices, boulders, and patches of soft sediment) at various depths. Ballachey. 2002). Access to bivalves in the soft sediment habitat found in these more protected areas may be important for winter survival. Since the Species at Risk Act came into force, DFO’s Conservation and Protection Branch has dedicated over 1000 hours specifically to Sea Otter protection and enforcement in Canadian Pacific waters. Kreuder, C., M.A. 1993. The levels of PCBs measured in California and Aleutian Sea Otters is considered to be of concern, since similar levels cause reproductive failure in mink, a closely related species (Risebrough 1984 in Riedman and Estes 1990). A food, social and ceremonial (FSC) harvest by First Nations is anticipated on the west coast of Vancouver Island. 65(1):75-100. Bodkin, J.L., B.E. iv + 16 p. Nichol, L.M., J.C. Watson, G.E. 1993. The slowing growth rate does not appear to be attributable to disease, predation or limiting resources and may be related to illegal and legal harvest (Esslinger and Bodkin 2006). Sea otter population declines in the Aleutian archipelago. A strategic environmental assessment (SEA) is conducted on all SARA recovery planning documents, in accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. Sea otter population status and the process of recovery from the 1989 ‘Exon Valdez’ oil spill. Red, Blue, Yellow) on the basis of the provincial Conservation Status Rank assigned by the Conservation Data Centre. Hatfield, K. Ralls and J. Ames. Sampling collection and assessment of genetic origin, disease exposure and contaminants in Sea Otters (2003 - present). 2005). Within British Columbia, the species is on the provincial Blue List1 and has received a rank of S3 (S=provincial status, 3=special concern) (British Columbia Conservation Data Centre 2012). Canadian Journal of Zoology 71:1811-1815. 1984. Totally extirpated through hunting by the early 1900s, a reintroduction of 89 individuals in 1969 has now grown to an estimated 3,000 individuals living from Cape Scott to Barkley Sound on the west coast of the island. 1973. 37: 61–65. Accumulation pattern of organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls in southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) found stranded along coastal California, USA. Hatfield, M.M. 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