Sea otter in Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska
© Andrew Peacock/Tandem Stills + Motio
Kick back, snack, and relax. Sea Otter Awareness Week
It's hard not to smile when you spot a sea otter. Their whiskery faces, busy paws, and thick fur give the impression of a stuffed animal that has come to life and taken to the ocean. The heaviest members of the weasel family, sea otters aren't just cute. They also play a vital role in the underwater kelp forest ecosystem, keeping the destructive sea urchin population in check—by eating them.
Sea Otter Awareness Week aims to help protect their populations, found along the coasts of the north Pacific Ocean. They once numbered 300,000 but they dropped to fewer than 2,000 after widespread hunting. International protections were put into place in 1911 and numbers have rebounded to around 125,000, but they remain endangered. While some habitats never recovered, others have emerged in entirely new locations, such as Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska. In 1995, five sea otters were spotted in Glacier Bay. Today, there are more than 8,000 hunting, playing, and raising pups in the kelp-abundant waters.