Sea otters are in wrong place at the wrong time, researchers say

New state grant allows Watsonville to combat toxic algae

Algae and fish study

WATSONVILLE, Calif. - Toxic algae is making sea otters more endangered than they already are, according to a recent study from UC Santa Cruz and Cal State Monterey Bay.

It's happening at Pinto Lake in Watsonville. The city will be using is electrofishing to help the otters. On the lake, a boat will produce an electric field, which causes the fishes' muscles to contract. Then they float to the surface, where a biologists take carp out of the water. Carp are the fish causing harm to sea otters.

Researchers say the carp disturbs the sediment in Pinto Lake which forces phosphorus to rise. The algae feeds off the phosphorus and produces the toxins. A domino affect that finds its way to the sea otters.

"They just happen to be the downstream recipient when the algae flush out into Corralitos Creek and then down to the Pajaro River," said Watsonville Senior Utilities Engineer Robert Ketley. "Then it's picked up by organisms that are the primary food source for the sea otter. They just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Researchers say there are only 3,000 otters left and carp exists all over the world, so taking the carp out of Pinto Lake will starve the bad algae, killing it off.

The boats should be going out at the beginning of April or May of this year. This was made possible by a $11,700 state grant.  

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