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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sea Otter Resurgence Along The California Coast

Swimming in Cabrillo Beach near the traditional finish area of Catalina Channel crossings, we found ourselves swimming parallel to rocky coastline of Southern California among a thick kelp forest.

The thick kelp forest below the water surface seemed to stretch forever beneath the water's surface. Although we wondered what possibly could be down among the kelp, we had no real worries or high expectations that we were going to run into anything out of the ordinary.

But out of the blue, a solitary sea otter popped up to the surface with its cute little head. We immediately stopped right there and just stared. The little furry pup startled us and it stared back right back at us with its long whiskers twitching inquisitively. We didn't know if he would bark or bite so we just eggbeatered in place.

Our marine friend did the same. The stare-down must have been only seconds long, but it seemed longer. Its eyes gazed into ours. We didn't dare blink or move, not knowing what it would do. It sniffled its nose as if to indicate our human smell was odoriferous.

Then suddenly, as soon as the sea otter had appeared, it dove back below the surface and was not seen again. Relieved, but with racing hearts, we headed back into shore with one more marine experience under our caps.

The sea otter population was estimated to be in the tens of thousands back in the 18th century along the California coast. But the devastation of the sea otters due to the fur trade reduced its number almost down to extinction. In 1914, a group estimated to be 50 animals survived near Monterey, California. Fortunately, under the protection of the International Fur Seal Treaty, the sea otters have estimated to increase to about 3,000 animals even as more of the furry creatures are being killed by Great White Sharks.

As the sea otters are sighted more by scientists along the California coast, open water swimmers may enjoy the same type of encounters.

Copyright © 2013 by Open Water Swimming

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