There are only about 2,800 southern sea otters in California. They are stressed by constant amounts of pollution in their habitats. Sea otters are a keystone species, meaning their feeding habits actually help manage the kelp forests where they live. Without sea otters to eat the species (like sea urchins) that eat kelp, the kelp forests may be diminished to a degree they no longer support other forms of life, like they do in a balanced ecosystem. The keystone species concept was introduced by Robert Paine, a University of Washington professor. This page references the importance of sea otters, “The return of the sea otter to southern California, for example, is restoring kelp beds and associated marine life there.”
Recently when an extremely rare sighting of a sea otter was confirmed off the coast of Oregon, it sparked jubilation among nature lovers. No confirmed sightings had taken place there for about 100 years.
Image Source: California Dept. of Fish and Game