Sea otters returning to historic habitat in Santa Barbara and Ventura is reason to rejoice. Part of that rejoicing is taking a week to celebrate what sea otters mean to the people of California and the nearshore ecosystem where they live.

A thriving population of sea otters is a clear indicator of clean waters and a healthy ecosystem. In recent years, however, sea otters have had a very tough time from diseases-many of which come from the mainland. When sea otters are doing poorly, it’s a strong indication that the nearshore waters are suffering from problems such as pollution and bad water quality.

During this year’s sixth annual Sea Otter Awareness Week, September 21-27, the focus of many events, free public lectures, and activities will be the important role sea otters play as an indicator species and how they shape the kelp forest and the rocky nearshore that they call home.

In the past five years, participation in Sea Otter Awareness Week has become widespread, including everyone from educators, aquariums, marine institutions and agencies, and zoos to elected officials. Last year, mayors of 20 California cities and six county boards of supervisors officially proclaimed “Sea Otter Awareness Week” in their cities and counties, including the cities of Santa Barbara and Ventura. Such involvement underscores how important sea otters are to Californians and the need to recover their populations in North America.

Sea otters have finally returned to areas they occupied before the fur trade, and hopefully, they’re here to stay!


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