Scientists found out that there are even fewer sea otters in the Kuril Islands this year
Sea otter is a marine mammal whose record-dense (by the standards of wildlife) fur attracted hunters for more than a century. As a result of long-term press, the species was literally on the verge of extinction by the beginning of the twentieth century. Measures undertaken in the first half of the XXth century to protect sea otters were supposed to reverse the negative dynamics. For a long time, the expectations of scientists were met. However, in recent years the opposite trend has been observed in some parts of the Russian Far East.
The highest number of sea otters ever reported in the northern Kuril Islands was 15 thousand species in 2003. All studies in the following years showed a sudden drop in numbers to the values of half a century ago.
A survey of 2017 clearly demonstrated a catastrophic 80% decline in some areas. This year, during spring surveys on the islands of Paramushir and Shumshu, the reduction in the sea otter population was 80% and 55% respectively compared to 2017. Only 219 species were found.
The exact reasons of the reduction are yet to be determined. It is likely that the observed decrease is the result several negative factors, which had a cumulative effect on the sea otter population. Among these factors: the depletion of food, diseases, overpopulation, human influence.
- sea otters become entangled in networks and perish;
- disturbance caused by fishing operations, forces animals to leave the usual rookeries;
- water pollution with oil products due to shipping also leads to the inevitable death of sea otters, critically dependent on the purity of the fur, as the only way to maintain heat.”
Two more expeditions to the Northern Kuril Islands will take place this year. During them, scientists will collect additional information about the dynamics of the sea otters population. Based on the results of data processing, it will become possible to develop measures to change the situation for the better.