When One Endangered Species Eats Another

What do you do when one endangered species eats another?

Sea otters, once extirpated in Washington, are now recovering thanks to several transplantations from Alaska. They eat up to 25% of their body weight a day in abalone, clams, crabs, sea urchins, and other invertebrates. This is a concern, because the northern (pinto) abalone also has declined precipitously in Washington and efforts are underway to bring back this culturally and ecologically important mollusk. Complicating the issue, young abalone might hide under sea urchins for protection and Washington has a sizeable state and tribal commercial urchin harvest.

The SeaDoc Society is improving the health of marine wildlife populations by funding critical research, providing scientific support and bringing stakeholders together to solve complex issues. Recently, the SeaDoc Society hosted a small but leveraged meeting that ultimately will benefit endangered species recovery and shows that the SeaDoc model of getting science into the hands of the user groups is effective and is working.

On October 8th, we convened a small group of state and tribal biologists and managers who are responsible for recovering and managing Northern abalone, sea urchins, and sea otters in Washington state. A SeaDoc-funded project that demonstrated sea otters were consuming large numbers of invertebrates as they moved into the Strait of Juan de Fuca prompted the need for this meeting. After invited scientific presentations, group discussion focused on what can realistically be done to control otter-resource conflicts in a way that preserves fishery sustainability and abalone recovery. Roadblocks to managing species recovery and conflicting fisheries management were discussed and thanks to this meeting, efforts are now underway to develop a state-wide framework for dealing with this these.

For meeting proceedings or more information about abalone, urchins, and sea otters please visit our website at www.seadocsociety.org.

None of this work would be possible without the private investment of people who care about the future of fish and wildlife populations in the region.

Thank you again for your support.

Sincerely, Kirsten Gilardi &  Joe Gaydos