Photo by Ryan Lawler/Newport Coastal Adventure
A special visitor has appeared at Crystal Cove! A sea otter which has been spotted and named by Crystal Cove Alliance was first seen in March 2016 and was hanging around and feeding right near the cottages and an area known as Rocky Bight. Members from several groups took part in trying to identify it's sex and age which has not been officially determined. "The sea otter is likely to be a young male venturing out in hopes of finding a mate" says Michele Sousa, Assistant Curator for the Aquarium Of The Pacific in Long Beach. Holly Fletcher and other volunteers from Crystal Cove Alliance have been observing the otter from the beach as it eats lobster and other marine life.
Sea otters were previously abundant in these waters but were hunted to the brink of extinction for their fur which is the densest of any animal. After the otters became protected under the endangered species act, they started re-populating and can typically be found North of Point Conception and up the coast with heavy numbers in the Big Sur and Morro Bay areas. The FWS had decided to re-locate any sea otters found south of Point Conception and place them at San Nicolas Island as a separate population in case of oil spill along the coast and also for their protection, many otters died from this and many would swim back to the mainland, it was known and even predicted as a failure. As of 2012, FWS stopped this failed program and was sued by a few different organizations. Now any sea otter that ventures into our waters will be safe from re-location and also be protected as an endangered species, with this sea otter named "Ollie," this could be the start of a bigger picture here shall a mate venture down into these waters as well. The sea otters will play a vital role in the local eco-system as they eat the sea urchins and other animals that feed on kelp, the kelp may expand and provide a larger habitat for many more fish.