SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KCBS/AP) _ Marine biologists are seeking answers behind another decline in the population of California’s southern sea otter, which is on the federal list of threatened species.

Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey say that after a year of steady recovery, the otter population along the Central California coast has declined for the second consecutive year.

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The USGS annual survey found the latest three-year average for the otter population dropped to 2,711, a 3.6-percent drop from last year’s three-year average. The number of otter pups dropped by 11 percent.

Scientists say the decline could be linked to a number of human and natural factors, including heavy storms, infectious disease and shark attacks.

”There are a lot of arrows pointing towards elevated pollution from the land,” said Tim Tinker, a research biologist with the USGS. “That includes chemical pollutants, toxins, increased use in fertilizers and also something we call bio-pollution, which is disease-causing parasites from the land that are getting into the ocean through runoff, and causing death in the sea otter population.”


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