Tuesday, February 28, 2012

California: Kelp and Sea Otters

This is the first of a series of photo posts from California. Keith Ellenbogen, a photographer and frequent contributor to the Global Explorers Blog, is sharing pictures from an expedition he completed with Conservation International (CI) and the Ocean Health Index to create an awareness about environmental threats and solutions that impact the relationship between people and the sea.  

A adorable sea otter appearing to waive hello while resting in the kelp in Monterey Bay

For this part of the assignment we chose to create a story that focused on sea otters, and how people both positively and negatively impacted the world around them.

Sea otter using a rock to break open a clam

In the early 1900’s, the sea otter -- one of the cutest and most loveable marine animals -- were hunted to near extinction for their fur. As sea otter populations diminished, sea urchin populations boomed. This boom in sea urchin populations (an animal that eats kelp) caused the kelp forest to decline to a point of real concern.  

A kelp hold fast that was ripped off the ground from the ocean surge.

The kelp are the equivalent to the trees within the tropical rain forests. Instead of trees, the kelp is actually a giant algae that uses a root-like structure called a holdfast to remain stationary on the bottom of the ocean. During storms holdfasts get ripped from the sea floor. I happened to see one of these holdfasts entangled within other kelp but drifting within the sea.

The color and texture of leaves of the kelp at the oceans surface.

The kelp are important as a natural barrier to our coastline and act as a natural barrier against the waves, in addition to being a home to lots of marine animals. As I descended to about 50 feet, I was fortunate to swim through giant kelp forests that swayed in the water as waves pushed me forward and backward like a giant pendulum.

A fish swims amid rocking kelp beds

I am happy to report that due to governments and conservation organizations working together, populations of sea otters are stable. While perhaps not yet a perfect success story, it's a success in that otters are on the rebound, not extinct, and that people worked together to help save this iconic species.

A pair of sea otters resting after mating

To learn more about the first part of Keith's trip to the Turtle Islands click here, and continue on to see pictures from Raja Ampat in Indonesia here. Head over to Conservation International's blog for more pictures and perspectives from Keith.

To learn more about a remarkable part of the California coastline known as the Elkhorn Slough, click here.

1 comment:

  1. what a beautiful photos i like it.it seems alive.Its very interested.Thanks for sharing this.
    Sea Kelp