There have been a range of issues facing the Alaskan fisheries in the last few years ranging from the issues of global warming and warmer water, declining salmon numbers on their return home to spawn and now sea otters.
These creatures can grow up to 4 feet long and weight 90lb, once nearly hunted to extinction by Russian fur traders in the 18-19th centuries. They were reintroduced to South East Alaska in the 1960’s by the Alaskan Department of fish and game. The otters have a large appetite and are very partial to crab, sea cucumbers, urchins and clams, they are able to eat 25% of their body weight each day.
In 1995 they were blamed for the collapse of the abalone fishery in the State.
In recent times there have been reports by fisherman of declining numbers of crab, sea cucumber and urchins when fishing and it is felt that the otters are to blame. Sea cucumber and urchin fishing have been closed down to give the population a chance to re populate.
The fish and game department office aims to start studying the sea otters more closely in the future to assess numbers and to see how commercial fisherman and the protected creatures can co exist.