While visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we learned from one of the animal trainers that the entire California Sea Otter population is counted twice each year. The counts are conducted by
scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, California Department of Fish and Game, and Monterey Bay Aquarium with the help of volunteers in early autumn and late spring.
The rules and guidelines for counting the Sea Otters were developed by WERC scientists, and the first counts were recorded in 1983. Several two person-teams use binoculars and spotting scopes to
count individual sea otters from particular places on the shore. The rest of the area is counted from an airplane, flying over the area. The teams cover about 375 miles of coastal shore from Half Moon Bay to Santa Barbara.
The counts made by the teams on shore are marked on maps and then entered into a special database. The counts done from an airplane are entered into a GIS linked database in the airplane.
The counts record:
- total number of otters
- number of dependent pups
- number of adults & sub adults or independents
“The spring, 2000, survey of 2317 California sea otters indicates an overall increase by 10.9 percent since 1999, spring survey of 2090 individuals. This is the first overall increase observed
since spring 1995, when the threatened population reached its highest number of 2,377 individuals. The breakdown of the 200 shows a 13.8 percent increase in pups since spring 2999, and a 10.5 percent increase in adults and sub
adults, or independents. The notheren-most otter was spotted at Half Moon Bay; the southernmost near Refugio State Beach.”