10th Annual Sea Otter Awareness Week a True Success

10th Annual Sea Otter Awareness Week a True Success

In a year in which sea otter conservation and awareness is more important than ever, organizations, agencies, zoos, aquariums, natural history museums, educators, and others from around the world rallied together to promote the preservation of this charismatic and beloved marine mammal during Sea Otter Awareness Week 2012. From Portugal to Minnesota, France to Santa Barbara…and almost everywhere in between, the amount of effort put forth into the 10th annual week and in increasing people’s knowledge regarding the status of sea otters was unprecedented.

 10th Annual Sea Otter Awareness Week a True Success

The Shedd Aquarium made sure that this sea otter was fully aware that an entire week is dedicated to increasing the marine mammal’s conservation. The aquarium, along with over thirty other participants  made for the most successful Sea Otter Awareness Week yet. (Photo ©Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez)

But why have an entire week dedicated to otters?

Simple. And it’s no secret.

Sea otter populations are not close to where they should be. Annual deaths are at an all-time high in California. And, don’t forget, the entire coast of Southern California is still completely off limits to sea otters.

But its not all bad news…

Reasons to increase sea otter awareness do not all stem from negative statistics. Recent studies have shown that sea otters have incredible positive impacts on their habitats, such as increasing kelp bed coverage which results in increases of carbon sequestration. Who would have thought climate change mitigation and otters would ever share the same sentence, but it’s true, and people need to know.

So for these reasons, and of course the obvious ones, there is an entire week dedicated to increasing both public awareness and conservation efforts of the sea otter.

This year over 30 different zoos, aquariums, scientists, filmmakers, institutes and organizations alike held talks, open discussions, movies, and events to promote the conservation of sea otters. At one of the more glamorous events of the week, the popular film, Otter 501, showed to a packed house of over 700 people in the Sunset Center of Carmel, CA. Overall the week was a complete success and would not have been so without the incredible support from all the different participants who contributed.

Every week is Sea Otter Awareness Week at Friends of the Sea Otter, but last week was made that much more special by the hard work and dedication from a number of organizations. Thank you to all who participated, and we look forward to another successful week next year! Please check www.seaotterweek.org for a list of  the partners and the events that took  place during the week.

Dispatches from the Capitol

 Dispatches from the CapitolOn Monday March 26th, Friends of the Sea Otter sent me to advocate on behalf of the voiceless sea otters at the annual Ocean Day event held at the California State Capitol in Sacramento and hosted by Environment California. The day for FSO would be spent educating and informing state lawmakers about sea otters (in particular, the no-otter zone), the ocean environment, and how California can continue to lead the way in protecting our coastal resources.

Early in the morning, dozens of passionate ocean advocates gathered in conference room 444 for a kick-off speech by ocean champion Assemblymember Julia Brownley (D – Santa Monica). Her stories of fighting for state-wide bans on plastic bags and styrofoam take-out food containers, both of which are extremely harmful to the ocean environment and cost millions a year to clean up, energized and motivated us for a full day of ocean advocacy – especially since coffee was not allowed in that room (the room is almost 150 years old, after all!).

Though as important as they are, sea otters were just one topic my particular group (all attendees were broken into several themed groups) discussed with California state legislators and their staff. Working with Oceana, the Surfrider Foundation, and Save Our Shores, I had a

 Dispatches from the Capitol

Assemblymember Julia Brownley kicks off Ocean Day

chance to partake in a discussion covering a wide variety of ocean issues, from plastic pollution to marine protected areas (did you know that by the end of this year, all of California’s coast will be protected by a network of new underwater parks?!) and California’s potential first official state marine reptile (the leatherback sea turtle). Tackling all of these issues is important to create a healthy ocean habitat, for sea otters and other wildlife as well as to preserve the economic value of the ocean itself.

When we weren’t lost in the web of hallways and elevators that is the capitol building, we spent our time talking up the issues with legislators who were very receptive to hearing our messages. One thing I have noticed by working on ending the no-otter zone these past years is that just by educating and informing people that this exclusion zone exists almost always guarantees their support, and I was pleased to find this rule held true with lawmakers and their staff in the state capitol. The no-otter zone shocked nearly every office I spoke with and many offered their support to end the no-otter zone and free the sea otter.

By the end of the day we had met with six legislator offices, two legislators themselves, dozens of other ocean advocates, and tasted seafood ice cream provided by Ben and Jerry’s (not for everyone!). Other groups, including the otter-advocates at The Otter Project and our friends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, worked hard that day too for a combined total of 96 California state legislator offices being informed of ocean issues and our cause. With only 120 total state legislators, we spoke to nearly 80% of the total elected body in Sacramento!

Moving forward from this long day of activism, FSO welcomes more cooperation from important state legislators and our other ocean advocacy friends as we work to protect our coastal habitat for people and wildlife. To learn more about the no-otter zone, please click here and be sure to visit our friends at Oceana, the Surfrider Foundation, and Save Our Shores to learn about the important issues they work on as well.

Visit FSO at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Otter Days!

 Visit FSO at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Otter Days!  Visit FSO at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Otter Days!

As part of Sea Otter Awareness Week, the Monterey Bay Aquarium will be hosting “Otter Days” this weekend, September 24th and 25th. These days will be full of otter-related activities including sea otter feeding and training sessions and chances to meet with sea otter researchers and aquarists who care for the otters.

Friends of the Sea Otter is proud to also take part in these activities. Don’t forget to stop by our table during Otter Days to learn about how FSO is fighting for the survival of the sea otter!

For more information on the Otter Days at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, click here or to see the schedule click here.

Come Kayaking with FSO

Want to go kayaking in one of California’s largest remaining wetland? Want to see sea otters in their natural habitat? Then come join FSO and other members for a discounted kayaking trip through the Elkhorn Slough (20 minutes north of Monterey, directions) just before the Annual Meeting on Saturday, October 1st.

Monterey Bay Kayaks has graciously offered a discount to FSO members, eligible to be applied to a kayak rental for October 1st. If you would like to join FSO and other members for a joint trip through the Elkhorn Slough at 10:00 AM on October 1st, please send us your name, number of people in your party, contact information (phone and/or email) and check for $45 made to:

Friends of the Sea Otter

PO Box 223260

Carmel, CA 93922

Additionally, if you donate online through Network for Good, please indicate in the designation field “FSO Kayak Trip.”

nfg kayak trip Come Kayaking with FSOThe deadline for all reservations is Friday, September 2nd to hold your spot. Be sure to indicate that you would like to participate in the kayaking tour of Elkhorn Slough.

For more information on the Elkhorn Slough:    http://www.elkhornslough.org/

For more information on Monterey Bay Kayaks:            http://www.montereybaykayaks.com/

2011 Annual Meeting Around the Corner!

picture 6 2011 Annual Meeting Around the Corner!

If you missed our Member Meeting earlier this summer, please join us as we reconvene at our Annual Meeting in October.  Be updated on our recent work to end the No-Otter Zone in southern California and associated activities related to FWS’  release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which should occur within the next couple of weeks (this is VERY exciting!), our contributions towards a comprehensive and accurate Recovery Plan for the Southeast Alaska sea otter population, and much more!

WHEN: October 1th, 2011, 4-7 PM

WHERE: Heritage Harbor

99 Pacific St. Suite 100A

Monterey, CA 93940

Parking is available in a public (paid) lot, Heritage Harbor Parking Garage, on the corner of Scott St. and Pacific St, (entrance on Scott St.). The fee is $1 for each ½ hour. Additionally, there are free street parking spots on Pacific St. and Scott St. with a 2 hour time limit, enforced until 6:00 PM, though space is limited.

What did you miss? FSO Member Meeting Overview

Were you unable to attend the member meeting last June and are curious to learn what we spoke about and shared with those who attended?  Then you will be pleased to see what we presented to those who were able to join us at Heritage Harbor last month. All in all, it was a great meeting, with a small but energetic group of members, who asked questions about our various programs, from the water monitoring project which involves a handful of FSO volunteers to our Yampah Island project which will monitor sea otter behavior in the Elkhorn Slough to our legislative pushes to terminate the no-sea otter zone, the remnants of a 1988 decision to create a secondary sea otter population that would prevent extinction if an oil spill were to occur in the natural sea otter range off the coast.  For further information, please view details in our presentation or on our website.  If you are interested in volunteering, please contact us at info@seaotters.org.