Posted June 18, 2007
TASSC Attends Sea Otter Conservation Workshop V
Port Heiden Sea Otter Mortality Event
SW Sea Otter Recovery Team Update

TASSC Attends Sea Otter Conservation Workshop V
The Sea Otter Conservation Workshop V was held in Seattle at the Seattle Aquarium on March 16th through the 18th, 2007. The Sea Otter Conservation Workshops are held once every two years and bring together the sea otter research community, zoos, aquariums, veterinarians, and conservationists to discuss common issues, concerns and updates pertaining to northern and southern sea otters. Workshop attendees included individuals from Russia, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Minnesota, and Illinois. This was the fourth workshop that TASSC staff was able to attend.

Through dozens of presentations, the 3-day workshop provided attendees with updates on current research that is occurring throughout the range of the northern and southern sea otter, including information on disease and genetic studies. Updates were also provided from aquariums and zoos about captive sea otters and current developments and issues.

Lianna Jack, TASSC Executive Director, also presented to the workshop attendees. Lianna gave the diverse group an introduction on TASSC, legislation that provides for Alaska Native subsistence and co-management, and traditional and contemporary subsistence uses of sea otter. Lianna also discussed the research and management plan priorities that were identified at TASSC’s February 2006 Planning Session meeting. Her presentation concluded with a discussion of TASSC’s past and present sea otter programs.

The workshop was a great opportunity to learn about the diverse work occurring within the sea otter research community and for TASSC to share with the group how important sea otter subsistence is to Alaska Natives and provide an update on TASSC’s research with Tribes, Alaska Natives, rural communities and federal agencies. The next workshop will be held in March 2009, and TASSC hopes to participate again.

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Port Heiden Sea Otter Mortality Event
This winter, Port Heiden’s bay froze, causing many sea otters to come ashore around the village of Port Heiden in search of water and food. In Bristol Bay, fast shore ice can occupy a sea otter’s habitat over night and last for days, weeks or even months. When this happens in Port Heiden, sea otters may attempt a 30-mile migration across land to the Pacific Ocean. This year’s freeze marks the third time this has happened in Port Heiden since 1999. Through local and traditional knowledge such an event is known to occur periodically and documentation is vital to the history of the northern sea otter.

Because the sea ice affected the sea otters’ ability to forage, many otters were stranded and starving which led to a sea otter winter mortality event. The community of Port Heiden has turned the mortality into a positive cultural and learning experience for the youth and residents of this Bristol Bay village. Respecting traditional Alaska Native practices of sharing, local residents have been salvaging hides for future handicrafts and gifts for their elders. Hunters and experienced skinners are using this event to demonstrate the proper care of raw hides to the Port Heiden youth. We can soon expect to see some hats, gloves, scarves, teddy bears and blankets from the Alaska Native artisans from Port Heiden, Alaska!

Due to the unpredictable nature of the species, sea otter unusual winter mortality events are important to document and we encourage you to contact TASSC if you believe one is occurring in your area. We will advocate for full resource utilization through customary salvage of hides and provide information/training for local scientific data collection.

 

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SW Sea Otter Recovery Team Update
The Southwest Alaska Sea Otter Recovery Team met on April 10-11 in Anchorage, Alaska. This was their third meeting since the Team was formed in 2006. Margaret Roberts, TASSC Chair, was present and sits on the Team to represent the Alaska Native subsistence community.

For more information on the Southwest Alaska Sea Otter Recovery Team, visit the Team’s website.

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