Featured Image Credit: Thomas O’Malley
By Sarah Sharkey
Although most of us are ecstatic by the recovering wild sea otter population, some people are not quite as thrilled. Many fishermen and crabbers are worried that the increase in sea otters may force them out of the water. Simply put, as the sea otter population increases so does their need for food. The sea otters eat a variety of crab and shellfish in Southeast Alaska and it is seriously affecting the number of crabs and shellfish available to the fishermen.
In a meeting with the Alaska Board of Fisheries earlier this year, many fishermen supported the statement made by crabber Mike Lockabey about the current problems facing the fishery. He said “It is acute. It will not make the next board cycle without losing fisheries. Not just areas, fisheries.”
It is a tense situation, but it is yet unresolved. The shellfish industry was recently thriving when the sea otter population was keep dangerously small with hunting and trapping. As the sea otters recover, this was likely a possibility.
Eventually, the sea otter population will reach a point that it will not grow past. The population doesn’t appear to slowly down anytime soon though. Will the fisheries be able to survive the pressure of both sea otter predation and commercial fishing?
Time will tell, but in the meantime fisheries scientists are working hard to strike a balance between these two pressures.
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