Essays About Sea Otters


The sea otter, Enhydra lutris, is about three feet long, with a tail that adds approximately one more foot to its length. In shape it is like a river otter, which is slightly smaller in body but has a longer tail. Both animals have webbed feet, though the back feet of the sea otter are enormous by comparison, which is important for its life in the ocean. Before intense hunting the sea otter spent part of its life on land, but that behavior was changed so that it rarely is seen ashore, a case where humans altered the behavior of an animal in a drastic way. (1. Peter Matthiessen, Wildlife in America. New York: Viking, 1987, pp. 1-4-5.) Both river and sea otters are a rich brown color, but the head and neck of the sea otter are a tawny yellowish or grayish color. Habitat separates the two. The river otter’s range is widespread (over the interior of North America, for example) and the sea otter’s range is restricted to rocky shores with kelp beds from the Aleutians to northern California. (2. William H. Burt and Richard P. Grossenheider, A Field Guide to the Mammals of all North American species found North of Mexico. 3rd edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976. pp. 60-63; plate 5).

In the seventeenth century, sea otter were found from Japan to the Kurile Islands, in Kamchatka and the Aleutian Islands, in Alaska southward to Baja California. The history of the sea otter was well summarized in A Field Guide to the Mammals as follows: “Fur formerly extremely valuable and ruthlessly sought after. Once thought to be extinct, it is now increasing in numbers. Abalone fisherman begrudge the few abalones eaten by this interesting mammal.”(3. Ibid., p. 63). These three sentences by William H. Burt and Richard P. Grossenheider summarize the past and present of this animal which escaped extinction only by accident. What happened?

First the fur. The early peoples who lived in the Kurile Islands, Kamchatka, the Aleutians and in the places along the coasts of North America inhabited by sea otters did not value the sea otters particularly. The meat of the animals was not tasty; the fur was not warm or waterproof. The sea otter fur was used for decoration. Sometime in the seventeenth century a trade in sea otter developed between the Kurile Islands and China. The Chinese prized the luscious fur of the sea otter for its beauty. When Russian fur hunters (promyshlenniki) came to eastern Siberia in the mid-seventeenth century in their pursuit of sable, the trade in sea otter already existed. The Russian hunters sent the sable, fox, squirrel, etc. back to western Russia where it was traded to western Europe. They hunted along the rivers, trading with and taking tribute from the local inhabitants, in a system of trade dominated by forts erected at key points along the river systems. The weapons of the promyshlenniki quelled any resistance that the disunited, sparse populations of the areas could offer.

The Russian sea otter trade began as a continuation of trade in other furs. In 1697 Peter the Great declared the sable trade to be a monopoly of the government; in the same year, searching for new sources for sable, Russian hunters began their conquest of Kamchatka. The people of Kamchatka — the Itelmen — were not able to drive the Russians out, but the route from the mainland was long and hard, and the hostile Chukchi and Koraks in the north made the 2000 mile journey from Anadyrsk hazardous for Russians. (4. James Forsyth, A History of the Peoples of Siberia: Russia’s North Asian Colony 1581-1990. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 131-33).

In 1714 Peter ordered that a route by sea (700 miles) should be discovered. Sable for the European market was not the only prize, for the seas around Kamchatka were the home of the sea otter. So early in the eighteenth century Russians in Kamchatka were involved in the sea otter trade to China. In 1689 the Russians and Chinese settled their eastern border along the Amur River, and formal trade between the countries was established. The Chinese wanted sea otter furs; the Russians now could supply them. Peter the Great was interested in Siberia, not only for trade with China. So, he sent parties of explorers there.

Russian Navy officers Vitus Bering, Martin Spanberg, and Alexi I. Chirikov were sent on an expedition to Siberia by Peter the Great shortly before his death in January 1725. This was the First Kamchatka Expedition. Later these three were charged with the Second Kamchatka Expedition, which had as its purposes the mapping of the entire arctic coast of Russia, the discovery of sea routes to Japan and America, and the cataloging of information about the land and peoples of Siberia. For the sea otter trade, the voyages made by Bering and Chirikov to America in 1741 are important. Their two ships were separated, but both reached America. In trying to make a landing, Chirikov lost both of his ship’s boats, and thus had no way of obtaining fresh water. He returned to Kamchatka late in 1741, with difficulty. Bering and his crew had an even worse time, but did explore and map some of the coast and islands of North America. Then Bering headed west, under terrible conditions. The sailors suffered from scurvy and could not work the ship. At last, seeing land that they hoped was Kamchatka they headed for it and were shipwrecked. The place was the uninhabited Bering Island, of the Commander Islands, where Bering and many others died during the winter. In the spring the survivors built a small ship and sailed home, carrying with them a stock of 900 sea otter pelts. The value of this fur was enough to pay the expenses of the entire Second Kamchatka Expedition and set off the Russian fur trade rush to America. (5. ftn.).

From 1742 onward Russians sailed to the east. Initially the voyages were short and the men joined in loose companies for a single voyage. After the sea otter were depleted in the Commander Islands, the voyages were longer, and as sea otter were hunted out of the western Aleutians the voyages became longer still, three to five years usually. Thus the arrangements for companies became more complex. Russian government either met the hunters at their return or sent along agents to ensure collection of the government’s share. The Aleuts could not repell the intruders, who had guns and took hostages to force the Aleuts to hunt sea otter. The hunters claimed the islands for Russia and collected tribute from the Aleuts as well. As the sea otter were hunted out of the islands the hunters moved to the mainland and southward to northern California.

The Russians had the trade to themselves until the voyage of Captain James Cook to the North Pacific in the 1770s. During the voyage Cook charted the coast of North America searching for a Northwest Passage and he also visited Kamchatka and the Aleutian Islands. During the voyage the English received some sea otter pelts for trade goods; they had no idea of their value until they stopped in China on their way home. The prices the Chinese paid for them nearly led to a near mutiny, for the sailors wanted to return for more sea otter and make their fortunes.

The sea otter trade continued, with the Americans and other Europeans contesting with Russia over it. The depletion of the sea otter in the mid-nineteenth century may have led to Russia’s sale of Alaska in 1867. The slaughter of sea otter continued, now by Americans. In 1911 an international treaty was made against killing sea otter. (Wild Animals of North America. Washington: National Geographic Society, 1960, p. 189). Because so few sea otter remained it was assumed that they would not survive. In 1938 biologists were astounded to see a group near Carmel, California, which was the beginning of the restoration of the southern sea otter.

In the north Japanese poachers threatened to finish off the few remaining animals in the Aleutians. Then came World War II, and the Japanese attack on the Aleutian Islands. The United States established its military presence in the islands which accomplished what no law had been able to do — stopped the hunting completely. The sea otter has made a slow but steady recovery, and is now re-established in several of the Aleutian Islands. One good place to see them is at and near Monterey, California. The sea otter is rare, but there are enough of these fine animals to cause abalone fishermen to protest in some areas! They deserve a few abalones in exchange for seeing these delightful animals, which swim on their backs, and are quite tame. Sea otter are also tool-using animals, and you can watch them as they swim with a stone on their stomachs, which they use to crack abalone shells. The sea otter is one of the animals that changed history, and in doing so nearly became extinct.

T He Endangered Sea Otter. Explains Why And How The Sea Otter Is Endangered

Why is the sea otter endangered?

The sea otter is the smallest marine mammal and the largest member of the weasel family. There are three sub-species of sea otters: Southern sea otters, Northern, and the Russian. This report explains why these three sub-species and sea otters as a whole have depleted in number in the past, and what it is that's causing them to still be in danger today.

In 1741, Russian explorers discovered sea otters along the Russian and Japanese coast. They quickly realized that their fur was twice as thick and warm as the fur seal's. It soon became very valuable in places such as Europe and China where it was known as "warm gold." The Russians were soon enslaving Alaskan natives called Aleuts to help with the slaughter. When the hunting was at its peak in San Francisco Bay, CA, 500-600 otters were being killed every week. Before all of this took place there where about 150,000-300,000 sea otters in the world. Afterwards, they were rarely seen and were thought to be extinct when a small raft of 300 otters were discovered off the coast of Big Sur, CA. A few years later in 1989, about 2,800 sea otters were killed in the Exxon oil spill depleting their numbers even more.

The sea otter was one of the first animals to be protected under federal law. In 1911, the International Fur Seal Treaty was signed , this was the first bit of protection the sea otters had, and by that time there were only 1,000-2,000 sea otters left in the world. In 1972, sea otters became protected by the Marine Mammal...

Loading: Checking Spelling

0%

Read more

Save the Endangered Animals Essay

959 words - 4 pages Could you imagine a world without tigers, the giant panda, or the rhinoceros? What a paler place it would be. Astonishing amounts of animals are considered critically endangered and near extinction. If we would like these animals to be around for future generations, we cannot hesitate in our efforts to help them. Rhinoceros - Sadly, the White, Black and Javan rhinoceros are all on the critically endangered list. The Indonesian Javan Rhino is...

The Solution is the Sea Essay

1858 words - 7 pages In the last several years, California has been experiencing a very serious drought, of which is said to be the worst drought since record keeping has begun. This drought has sparked a lot of conflict between different groups in need of water and now politics are trying to organize where all the water should go. The water that California gets each year is split up into between three main areas: human needs, agriculture, and supporting the...

The Dead Sea is dying

654 words - 3 pages Dead Sea on Death BedThe rapid depletion of the Dead Sea is an environmental atrocity. The reason atrocity is used in comparison with what is occurring to the Dead Sea is, because humans are the problem. The first dilemma and by far the greatest is the diversion of 90 percent of the

The Hippopotamus: Endangered Species Report

604 words - 2 pages The Hippopotamus: Endangered Species ReportThe ban on elephant ivory trading has slowed down the poaching of elephants, butnow poachers are getting their ivory from another creature, the hippopotamus. Forthe poacher, the hippo is an easy target. They stay together for long hours in muddywater pools, as many...

The Sea and its moods

1069 words - 4 pages Never before did I envisage boarding a ship on my own free will. It was cloudless and beautiful. The perfect day to attempt to get over my fear of this vast ocean filled with deadly sea creatures. As I gazed out to the fishing vessels far beyond the shark nets my view was obstructed by the majestic seagulls that flew so low over the shimmering water. They darted...

Old Man And The Sea

636 words - 3 pages Old Man And The Sea Out of every single book that is in the ninth grade curriculum there is only one that is worth keeping. This one novel is The Old Man and the Sea. Other books students have read...

Old Man and the Sea

842 words - 3 pages The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway, is a great work of literature. I found...

Old Man and the Sea

1846 words - 7 pages The Journey from Illusion to Disillusion in Hemingway's Old...

"Old fisherman and the sea".

1560 words - 6 pages Story OverviewEighty-four days had passed since Santiago, the old fisherman, had caught a fish, and he was forced to suffer not only the ridicule of younger fishermen, but near-starvation as well. Moreover, Santiago had lost his young companion, a boy named Manolin, whose father had ordered him to leave Santiago in order to work with more successful seamen. But the devoted child still loved Santiago, and each day brought food and bait...

Old Man and the Sea

1228 words - 5 pages Ernest Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea to show how you can push through the hardest of times and still not be defeated. The story shows how an old fisherman overcame an unlucky slump with the support from a young boy that loved and helped Santiago named Manolin. Santiago fought through the discrimination of the other old fisherman and refused to give up. Through Santiago’s struggles when trying to catch the great marlin, he kept pursuing...

Old Man And The Sea

1943 words - 8 pages That salt seawater stench grazes your nose, "gawk gawk" as the seagulls make their infamous noise. The smell of elderly fishers and their cigars. Does this give you any pictures or images? Well this is the scenery and background of the book "

0 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *