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Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
User is currently offline
on Monday, 27 February 2012
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

Shark Attacks Threaten Sea Otter Population

The sad deaths of 108 dolphins due to stranding along Cape Cod on the east coast isn’t this year’s only news of marine mammals dying in “unprecedented” numbers. The west coast is looking at a dwindlingSea otter
sea otter population that is for once not due to anything humans have done.

California’s sea otter was once close to extinction after pre-Gold Rush pelt hunters left the population severely fragmented.  In 1911 an international treaty was passed to protect seals but not otters. They  wouldn't be formally protected until 1972 when Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act. These laws and conservation efforts would slowly bring the population to better if not great numbers. 

Research shows the population is thinning and while scientists have a few ideas as to why it doesn’t make the news any less dismal. On Sunday the Los Angeles Times reported 335 injured, dead or sick sea otters were found last year according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Tim Tinker, who has studied sea otters for over fifteen years and is a Research Wildlife Biologist at the USGS' Western Ecological Research Center, spoke with the Times and said, "We're starting to see a perplexing trend suggesting increased shark attacks on sea otters.” Sadly, the sharks are “favoring” female otters of breeding age which is also going to affect the population.

 The article said that “shark bites accounted for 15% of otter deaths in the late 1990s, but that percentage nearly doubled in 2010 and 2011.”  

 The San Jose Mercury Times also spoke with Tinker who said the great white sharks may erroneously think the sea otters are sea lions or elephant seals, attacking, and then leaving them to die when they realize their mistake. 

Other factors that are affecting the population are: infectious diseases, being hit by boats, gunshot wounds, and like dolphins they can strand.

At last count the sea otter population was at 2,711 and 379 otters short of being at the number needed for removal from the ESA's list which has the sea otter categorized as “Threatened.” The ICUN Red List places the sea otter at the “Endangered” level.

Scientists may be able to treat disease and conservationists can raise awareness about anthropogenic threats like boating accidents and ask for laws to prosecute those who wield guns irresponsibly but neither party can ask the sharks to feed with more care. Hopefully, word will get around the shark community that these aren’t the mammals they are looking for and they will cease to attack sea otters.

 

 

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Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of Lake Erie in Northeast Ohio. Samina and her husband believe that sustainability starts in the home and try to live their lives as simply as possible without compromising comfort.

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1944: Camano Class Light Cargo Ship was laid down for the US Army as FS-289 at Wheeler Shipbuilding in Whitestone, NY.

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1945: Delivered to US Army.

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1950: Acquired by the US Navy on July 1, 1950 and placed in service as USNS New Bedford (T-AKL-17).

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1954: The movie, Mister Roberts, was made on the USNS New Bedford (T-AKL-17).

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1955 - 1963: Used as a cargo supply ship for the Texas Towers, a network of advanced radar stations located off the Eastern Seaboard. In 1957, Capt. Sixto Mangual was commander of the AKL-17 and in 1961 it was rechristened the USNS New Bedford. The New Bedford, sailing out of State Pier, was keeping vigil when Texas Tower No. 4 callapsed off the New Jersey coast during a January 1961 nor'easter.

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1963: Reclassified as Miscellaneous Unclassified (IX-308).

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1971: The New Bedford (IX-308) served as a Torpedo Test Firing Vessel in the Puget Sound area.

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1994: Ceremony in New Bedford.

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1995: The ship was struck from the Naval Register on April 4.

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2004: The Sea Bird's current disposition is a tuna long liner (fishing boat) out of San Diego, CA.

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2006: Design of the Tesla Turbine began on June 11, 2006. The Sea Bird was sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service for commercial service.

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2007: The Sea Bird was drydocked for renovations.

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2008: The Sea Bird setting sail to Sea-Tac in Seattle, WA.

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2009 - 2010: The Sea Bird is currently docked at Seattle Sea-Tac.

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