Otters don’t just do cute little human things with their hands, they also help fight climate change.
Restoring sea otter populations along Pacific coastlines helps stop erosion and protects wetlands, new research shows. A study published last month in Nature looked at decades of data studying salt marshes in California. They found marshes with restored otter populations had shoreline erosion slowed by 90%, compared to marshes with no otters.
The study found otters eat burrowing crabs, preventing their populations from getting too big and damaging shorelines. They also eat urchins, protecting crucial salmon habitat from the spiky shellfish.
The last sea otter in BC was shot near Kyoquot in 1929 by a fur trader. The creatures had been hunted for centuries, their fur prized in European markets.
They were deemed extinct until they were reintroduced to the coast in the 1970s, when 89 Alaskan sea otters were relocated to the Bunsby Islands on Vancouver Island’s West Coast. Populations are now in the thousands.