Sea Otters vs. the Navy in Southern California

Written by on November 13, 2013 in Policy & Ocean Law

Daily Summary

Feast and famine on the abyssal plain
Animals living on abyssal plains (plains on the deep ocean floor) don’t usually get much food. Their primary source is called marine snow, which consists of mucus, fecal pellets and decomposing body parts that slowly drift down from animals near the surface. Researchers have long though that the steady fall of marine snow cannot account for all the food consumed by organisms living in the sediment. A new paper published after 20 years of research reveals that population blooms of algae or animals at the sea surface can result in huge feasts for abyssal plain organisms. The excess food that arrives on the seafloor during after the surface blooms does not go to waste. Researchers observed animals and seafloor microbes rapidly consuming all of it.

Sea otters off the coast of California.

Sea otters off the coast of California. Photo credit: sarowen via photopin cc.

Navy Takes Aim at California Sea Otters
The southern sea otter, Enhydra lutris nereis, is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Their population rebounded from only 11 individuals in the early 20th century and now otters are extending their range along the Southern California coast. However, a Defense Authorization bill currently on the floor of the U.S. Senate would exempt the Navy from provisions of the ESA and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, reducing the level of protection for sea otters.

‘Saving our Fish’ needs more than a ban on discarding
New research from the University fo East Anglia reveals that a ban on fish discards will only benefit future fish stocks if it is combined with other measures. Discards — unwanted or over-quota fish — account for approximately half the fish caught in marine fisheries. Very few of them survive after being caught and thrown back into the water. Discard bans are gaining widespread public support but this research states that a ban alone will not create a strong incentive for selective fishing and will not help protect future fish stocks.

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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