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Instead of blubber, sea otters have thick, luxurious fur to help keep them warm. That fur once made them a target for hunters. Today, they face new threats from pollution, disease, and competition with commercial fisheries for food.

Sea otters keep marine ecosystems healthy. They prey on sea urchins, small creatures who eat a seaweed called kelp. Underwater kelp forests shelter young fish and are crucial to healthy fisheries. When otters were overhunted, urchin populations exploded and decimated the kelp forests.

With federal protection, sea otter populations began to recover, and kelp forests are coming back. But the fishing industry sees otters as competition and inappropriately wishes to control or reduce sea otter numbers. The HSUS opposes culls of otters and other marine mammals.


  • sea otter

    National Park Service


"No Otter Zone" is Not Okay

A lawsuit filed by commercial fishing interests seeks to reinstate a "no-otter zone" in Southern California. The HSUS and other groups have gone to court to stop it.

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River or Sea?

While sea otters spend most of their lives in the water, river otters (pictured to the right) spend more time on land. Hunted and trapped for their fur, river otters are also threatened by pollution and dwindling habitat.

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