Letters to the Editor

Sea otters are an important part of a healthy ecosystem

In his letter on the effect of sea otters on Central California coastal ecosystems, Mark Hamerdinger (“Desperate need for sea urchins, abalone and clams in SLO County waters,” July 17) made several inaccurate statements.

His statement that the population of sea otters in California is the result of importation of northern sea otters is false. Northern sea otters were never translocated to California. All sea otters in California are southern sea otters, descendants of a remnant population that survived the fur trade off the coast of Big Sur. Sea otters were translocated to San Nicolas Island in the late 1980s, but they were southern sea otters taken from the California coast.

Most importantly, his characterization of the effect of sea otters on coastal ecosystems is erroneous.

The list of scientifically supported cases where the return of sea otters has restored coastal ecosystems thrown out of balance during their absence is lengthy and growing.

The relationship between sea otters (a native top predator), their herbivore prey (urchins, abalone, etc.) and algae (kelp and microalgae) is one that is millions of years in the making, and it is grossly misrepresented by Mr. Hamerdinger.

It is time we recognized sea otters not as the damaging force he describes, but as important components of healthy coastal ecosystems.

Gena Bentall, Cambria

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