Native sea otter popu­lation returns to Canada!

6 December 2023

Good news! The native sea otters are back in Canada. For thousands of years, the indigenous Haida people lived in harmony with the native sea otters. In the early 19th century, European traders slaughtered sea otters for their fur. Their global population dropped from 300,000 to just 1,000, and they disappeared completely from Canada's Haida Gwaii archipelago. But recently, some sea otter families have returned, which has caused a lot of commotion.

The Haida people are an indigenous people who have lived on the islands for at least 12,500 years. Until the colonial occupation of the archipelago, sea otters and the Haida lived side by side in harmony. The otter fur was of value to the Haida people, too: they used it for clothing and ceremonies, for example. Only after the Europeans conquered North America and colonised territories, the trade in sea otter fur became fatal to the otter population.

The disappearance of the sea otters had a grave impact on nature. The intensive fishing sector has made the ecosystem fragile. The return of the sea otters already shows that they play an essential role as predators, balancing the ecosystem in a natural way. Their presence also makes kelp forests flourish, which in turn ensure a greater diversity of animal and plant species. Additionally, kelp is rich in iron, a plant-based nutrient that can play an important role in a healthy and sustainable food system, which can also benefit locals.