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Otter Awareness Week Celebrates Hope for Its Return, Events in Portland, Oregon Coast

Published 09/13/23 at 6:47 a.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Otter Awareness Week Celebrates Hope for Its Return, Events in Portland, Oregon Coast

(Oregon Coast) – It's the kind of event you really “otter” know about.

Sea Otter Awareness Week (SOAW) is coming up, with the non-profit group Elakha Alliance touting its efforts to restore sea otters to the Oregon coast, happening from September 24 – 30. The group joins with similar organizations in California to hopefully inspire people on the West Coast and get them to appreciate these unique marine mammals. They essentially disappeared from the region about 100 years ago and have yet to regain a population foothold.

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A variety of events are held around the state with visits from experts from Elakha. Look for SOAW at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon Coast Aquarium and the BLM's Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area – both in Newport.

The group says the sea otter is quite important to the ecology of the near-shore environments of both states, and it faces some intense challenges to get back here.

The theme for this year's Sea Otter Awareness Week is “Restoring Missing Links,” which means the little creatures are still absent from their historical habitat range, and the efforts of conservation groups are not just needed but hopefully celebrated as well.

Oregon Sea Otter Awareness Week activities (see www.elakhaalliance.org for details);

- Monday Sept 25th, 6:30pm: Webinar: Elakha’s Next Steps & What Makes Sea Otters So Unique

- Tuesday Sept 26th, 12pm-2pm: Float Down the Coast Livestream & Educational Table at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area (Newport)

- Wednesday Sept 27th, 10am-2pm: Sea Otter Viewing Station at Oregon Coast Aquarium (Newport)

- Friday Sept 29th, 10am-2pm: Sea Otter Viewing Station at Oregon Zoo (Portland)

- Saturday Sept 30th, 10am-2pm: Sea Otter Viewing Station at Oregon Zoo (Portland)

Sea otters were once plentiful along the Oregon coast, but then were nearly hunted to extinction by fur traders in the early 1900s.

“A few surviving animals in California and Alaska enabled the population of sea otters to rebound in many places,” the group said. “However, they remain absent in their former habitats on the Oregon and northern California coasts, a stretch of nearly 800 miles.”

Elakha and other groups from California such as Sea Otter Savvy, Defenders of Wildlife, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and California State Parks are still at the forefront of the restoration work. They say the return of the sea otter would have numerous benefits for the ecology of the coastlines as well as the tourism economy, especially on the south coast. A 2022 study found that the reintroduction of the cute little species would have a substantial impact of more travelers to the regions.

There were other studies as well.

“In 2022 the US Fish and Wildlife Service released a study of the feasibility and impacts of returning sea otters to the region,” Elakha said. “The study found that there would be many ecological and economic benefits from returning sea otters due to their importance in protecting kelp forests which are critical habitat for many marine species, including fish caught in commercial and recreational harvest.”

To view the full SOAW schedule, visit https://defenders.org/sea-otter-awareness-week.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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