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Posted Sun Jul 5 2009: from Oakland Tribune:
Worried scientists find sea otter numbers continue to decline
The three-year average sea otter population on California's coast declined for the first time in more than a decade, according to a U.S. Geological Survey. Officials from the survey counted 2,654 otters this spring along the coast from Point Concepcion in the Santa Barbara area to Half Moon Bay. The count includes a colony of otters around the Channel Islands. It was the lowest single-year total since 2003, when about 2,200 were counted. But more alarming, said officials at the Otter Project, an otter advocacy group in Monterey, is that the running three-year average, which the USGS uses for the official population count, dropped for the first time since the late 1990s. "We've always identified the sea otter as the canary in the coal mine of the marine system," said Allison Ford, the new executive director of the Otter Project. "I hope this can be a wake-up call."... "A lot of this is stuff we've known is a problem in terms of water quality," Ford said. The otter population's status is generally considered a strong indicator of the overall health of the waters off California's coast, Ford said. "Their population is a little more delicate than that of the sea lion," she said. "When there is something wrong with otters, there is something wrong with the ecosystem."
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