Just five more sea otters were added to the annual tally this year over last year, making the current recorded population to be 2,944. The figure needs to exceed 3,090 for three years in a row in order for the otters to be removed from the federal list of Threatened Species. According to Tim Tinker, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, a number of factors, including lack of food resources in some areas and white shark attacks in others, continue to push against the recovery of the furry creatures.
The otters have been inching toward recovery since the 1930s (after the fur trade) when as few as 50 were counted off the California coast. The study of otters, which live in waters close to the shore, also help scientists understand pollutants and pathogens in the marine ecosystem near the coast.