Otter Count

The California Sea Otter is an endangered species. The students and staff of O’Neill Sea Odyssey are sometimes lucky enough to see these rare and beautiful animals in their natural habitat from the deck of the Team O’Neill. In the spring of 2002, 2139 sea otters were counted in California.

Otters are a keystone animal in our marine ecosystem.Sea otters protect one of our most valued resources, the kelp forest. By hunting and eating sea urchins and many other herbivorous benthic organisms the sea otter controls the populations of these animals and ensures the health of our kelp forests.

A healthy kelp forest is a sustaining environment for many of our coastal fish species. Without the sea otters to protect our kelp forests we could lose this vital habitat.

By keeping a daily count of the sea otters in one kelp forest on the central coast, we can become more aware of the habits and behaviors of our local residents. One of the best ways to protect our environment is to study, observe and learn.

The boundaries of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary encompass the California sea otter’s habitat within state boundaries. The MBNMS was designated in 1992. The National Marine Sanctuary Program began in 1972 in order to protect and preserve the wildlife and geographic features of certain ecologically sensitive areas.


Questions: Click on the question to see the answer

What is a sea otter’s favorite food?

What is the worst kind of pollution for a sea otter?

How long do sea otters live?

Marine Biology
Marine Ecology
Marine Navigation

Any of a diverse group of aquatic plants and animals that lives on the bottom of marine and fresh bodies of water. The presence or absence of certain benthic organisms can be used as an indicator of water quality.

An interacting community of animals and plants that depend upon each other and their environment for survival.

An animal that feeds on plants.

The condition of reduced body temperature, which can result in death.

A species that directly affects the ecosystem in which they live. Scientists can use a keystone animal as an indicator of environmental health.

A federally protected marine area offshore of California’s central coast. Stretching from Marin to Cambria, the MBNMS encompasses a shoreline length of 276 miles, and 5,322 square miles of ocean, extending an average distance of 30 miles from shore. At its deepest point, the MBNMS reaches down 10,663 feet (more than two miles).