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Poisoned oceans are cutting otters' lifespans by two-thirds

Ocean pollution

(NaturalNews) Otters have had issues verging on threatened extinction in the early 20th Century. They were trapped and killed for their thick-layered furs that protect them from water and frigid conditions. Restrictions or bans on killing otters for fur has helped their numbers rise again.

In addition to the thick double-layered furs that protect these semi-aquatic amphibious mammals of the weasel family, they have webbed feet with claws at the ends of their four short legs and a wide tail that helps propel them through water. The sea otters tend to spend more time in water then their river otter cousins.

Their noses and ears shut automatically under water, where they can remain for eight minutes or so before coming up for air. Otters feed mostly on fish but also on various shellfish, mussels and turtles. National Geographic considers them to be "very sensitive to environmental pollution."

This sensitivity places otters among the coal mine canaries that were once used as warnings of subterranean air becoming too toxic.

A Scottish otter concern that went mainstream

A Scotland mainstream daily, The Scotsman, featured concerned comments from zoologist Dr. Paul Yoxon about Scotland's diminishing otter population. Dr. Yoxon and his biologist wife, Grace, manage the International Otter Survival Fund (IOSF), which has rescued 180 otters while researching why they are beginning to dwindle in numbers again.

A major reason is that Scottish otters' lifespans have been reduced by two-thirds compared to their German counterparts. This gives the female otters less time to reproduce baby otters, usually two at a time, of which only half survive into adulthood.

The European mainland has cleaned up its act enough after an EU report a couple of years ago warned of EU coastal waters becoming overburdened by industrial toxic waste. Apparently, the UK and Scotland did little with those warnings. Scotland has 7,000 of the UK's 10,000 otter population.

Toxicology reports indicate high amounts of mercury and cadmium in otters that dine on mostly fish which contain the mercury and cadmium from industrial pollution that has spewed into the North Sea off Scotland's coast. Dr. Yoxon comments on additional new toxins that are polluting the water:

"Another group of chemicals have now appeared in the environment -- polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which are used as flame retardants in carpets, car seats and furnishings. These also accumulate in the environment and become concentrated in fish taken by otters, and can cause problems with the immune system."

In addition to industrial chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs, BPA from plastics and personal care products create xenoestrogenic imbalances that affect breeding with genital mutations.

Dr. Yoxon noted the actual reproductive effects on the otters: "They appear to be reducing the size of the male otter's penis -- by about five per cent over the last decade -- which obviously affects reproduction as well.

"The disappearance of the otter in the UK in the 1950s and 1960s went largely unnoticed until, suddenly, everyone began to ask where all our otters had gone. ... We cannot afford to make the same mistake again."

Not just a local Scottish problem

Everywhere there are oceans, various forms of sea life are showing signs of a tipping point pollution imbalance. Our earth's oxygen-generating ecosystem is being hampered by disappearing plankton, which also feed some surface sea creatures.

Starfish and sea lions are dying on the American Pacific coast. Tuna are showing up with Fukushima radiation particles. Mutated sharks from the Gulf of Mexico and two-headed dolphins floating onto Turkish shores are more omens of oceanic chemical imbalances.

The mad rush into DuPont's old slogan of "Better Living Through Chemistry" without regard for toxic ecological implications has brought oceanic Earth to this tipping point.

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