It's Sea Otter Awareness Week and there are a few ways you can learn more about these marine mammals that make their home along the Central Coast.
There are estimated to be around 3,000 sea otters that live along the coast of California between Half Moon Bay and Santa Barbara.
The population used to be much larger, but commercial hunting of the animals starting in the 1700s reduced their numbers significantly.
Southern sea otters are now listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
In Morro Bay, the sea otter population has experienced a resurgence. According to the conservation organization Sea Otter Savvy, recent surveys have counted more than 40 otters inside Morro Bay Harbor.
Morro Bay is one of two locations in San Luis Obispo County where you'll find a sea otter viewing station this week. Volunteers will be set up at Target Rock, which is located by Morro Rock near the end of the Harbor Walk, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily through Saturday, Sept. 25. They'll be available to answer questions about sea otters and help point out the animals.
On Tuesday, Sept. 21, and Friday, Sept. 24, a sea otter viewing station will also be set up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Port San Luis.
You can also learn more about sea otters during a livestream event on Tuesday called "Float Down the Coast." Experts from all along the West Coast will report live to share facts and stories about sea otters.
The livestream will be available on the Sea Otter Savvy and California State Parks' YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook pages.
Click here for a full list of Sea Otter Awareness Week events, many of which are virtual.
The Sea Otter Awareness Week celebration is a collaboration between Defenders of Wildlife, Sea Otter Savvy, and California State Parks.
The goal is to spotlight the role of sea otters in nearshore ecosystems, such as kelp forests, bays, and estuaries.
According to Sea Otter Savvy, this year's theme, "Ecosystem Mosaic," was inspired by recently published research that examined the role of various organisms, including sea otters, in the ecosystem of a kelp forest.
🦦 IT'S OFFICIALLY HERE! 🦦— Be Sea Otter Savvy (@SeaOtterSavvy) September 3, 2021
Our #SeaOtterAwarenessWeek logo is complete, and we can now enjoy the full #EcosystemMosaic.
A thousand tiny parts make a healthy ecosystem.
Join us and our partners September 19-25th and make sure to add our #SOAW2021 events to your calendar! pic.twitter.com/ZEvPO5WaKy
"During Sea Otter Awareness Week, we really try to recommit to Sea Otter Savvy's mission," said Gena Bentall, director of Sea Otter Savvy, in a press release. "We want to shift people's core awareness about sea otters from a superficial level to a deeper understanding about this fascinating and ecologically important species. It's from that deepened place of awareness that the sea otter's most enduring and passionate champions emerge."