Re­turn of the Sea Ot­ter

The Story of the An­i­mal That Evaded Ex­tinc­tion on the Pa­cific Coast

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews -

Todd Mcleish, Sasquatch Books (MARCH) Soft­cover $19.95 (264pp), 978-1-63217-137-5

Sea ot­ters are im­pos­si­bly adorable fur­balls, whose pup-par­ent­ing, shell-crack­ing an­tics make them eco­tourism and aquar­ium su­per­stars. Todd Mcleish’s Re­turn of the Sea Ot­ter gives a more rounded por­trait of these apex preda­tors (males some­times bite fe­males’ noses off dur­ing mat­ing!) and their key­stone role in coastal ecosys­tems.

Backed by ex­ten­sive re­search and three years of field out­ings, the book re­counts how the nine­teenth-cen­tury ot­ter pelt trade dec­i­mated pop­u­la­tions from the Aleu­tian Is­lands down to Cal­i­for­nia. With­out ot­ters to keep snails, sea urchins, clams, and crabs in bal­ance, in­ver­te­brate pop­u­la­tions bal­looned, set­ting a new nor­mal for com­mer­cial fish­er­men and Na­tive Amer­i­cans.

Now, with steadily re­bound­ing num­bers of ot­ters chow­ing down on all this tasty and valu­able seafood, there is ramped-up con­flict over wildlife man­age­ment and fish­ing reg­u­la­tions. Mcleish, while firmly on the ot­ter­ine side of the de­bate, presents a nu­anced over­view of the is­sues, point­ing out that ot­ters should not get the blame for fish­eries’ de­clin­ing yields with­out also ac­count­ing for ris­ing ocean tem­per­a­tures, acid­i­fi­ca­tion, coastal de­vel­op­ment, and over­har­vest­ing.

Each sec­tion ex­plores a dif­fer­ent as­pect of the life cy­cle of these fas­ci­nat­ing crea­tures and a sep­a­rate Pa­cific habi­tat. The au­thor clearly ex­plains the com­pli­cated sci­ence and com­puter al­go­rithms un­der­ly­ing re­cent dis­cov­er­ies about how ex­ten­sive and crit­i­cal the ot­ters’ role is in restor­ing healthy Pa­cific coastal zones. A de­scrip­tion of an ot­ter necropsy vividly shows how their health is dam­aged by par­a­sites, pol­lu­tion, and shell­fish and al­gal biotox­ins, and he warns that these an­i­mals are still threat­ened.

Mcleish’s en­gag­ing and in­for­ma­tive writ­ing is punched up with snazzy black-and-white il­lus­tra­tions of marine life and a photo sec­tion of ot­ters, at rest and play and (awwww!) hold­ing hands. This book is an ex­cel­lent in­tro­duc­tion to marine bi­ol­ogy and to a charis­matic species and would be a wel­come ad­di­tion to any nat­u­ral his­tory li­brary.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.