• Impacts of sea otter predation on commercially important sea cucumbers (Parastichopus californicus) in Southeast Alaska

      Larson, Sean D.; Eckert, Ginny L.; Woodby, Douglas A.; Kruse, Gordon H. (2012-12)
      Consequences from management actions, particularly those regarding species reintroductions, are not always immediately apparent. After sea otters were extirpated from Southeast Alaska in the 18th and 19th century fur trade, it is presumed that marine invertebrate stocks grew in the absence of sea otter predation. Since reintroduction in the 1960s, the Southeast Alaska sea otter population has grown, with great potential to deplete the commercially important sea cucumber, Parastichopus californicus. This study evaluates the interaction with and impacts of sea otters on sea cucumbers using foraging observations and sea cucumber density data collected for fishery management. Sea otter diets, in terms of edible biomass, include about only 5% cucumbers, and yet sea otters are depleting sea cucumbers; declines in sea cucumber density at sea otter affected transects ranged from 26 to 100%. Sea otter predation should be included in sea cucumber fishery management, possibly as an additional form of mortality in the surplus production model, as a step toward ecosystem based management.