Highly valued, hunted, controlled and traded by indigenous people for at least 12,000 years, sea otters and humans along North America's northwest coast share a deep history. This book chapter synthesizes archaeological evidence, historical records, traditional knowledge and contemporary ecological data to illuminate how coastal First Nations used, managed and conserved sea otters and our shared ocean home.
Through the lens of Western science and traditional Native knowledge, art and photography the authors uncover the ecological, social and economic causes of coastal ecosystem change on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. The reader is offered a rare opportunity to share experiences, perspectives and knowledge of Sugpiaq Elders and village residents whose lives and intuitions are shaped by the rhythms of the sea. This collaboration illuminates the resilience and limits of marine ecosystems and the vast archive of knowledge and expertise held by different cultures.
Size-selective predation by sea otters affects sea urchin size structure which then influences urchin per capita grazing rates. Smaller urchins each less kelp, which reduces their overall impact on standing densities of kelp. (Read the full text paper here)
While abalone numbers can be reduced by up to 16x with the recovery of sea otters, more of them tend to hide and exist at deeper depths, in part because of the expansion of kelp forests.