Sea otters live in shallow waters and often in areas with
kelp beds where they feed on invertebrates, i.e., sea urchins, crabs, etc. .
In the Aleutian archipelago down to California,
it has been observed that the feeding habit of otters control herbivore
populations in these areas, increasing the size and coverage of kelp and
seagrass beds [1,2].
Seagrass recovery in the Elkhourn
Slough, California, in spite of
the degradation caused by excessive nutrients dumping, amazed University of
California Santa Cruz researchers. A recent study from this group of
researchers showed that interactions between sea otters and their prey is
crucial in the recovery of its habitat. Sea otters feed on crabs, which feed on
slugs and other invertebrates found on seagrass leaf blades. Predation by sea
otters on crabs controls the latter’s effect on the population of slugs, which
are important in maintaining the health of the seagrass population .
The IUCN  currently lists sea turtles as vulnerable (Lepidochelys olivacea), endangered (Caretta caretta, Chelonia mydas), and critically endangered (Eretmochelys imbricata, Dermochelys coriacea)wildlife, worldwide. But, in the 1700s, these animals were abundant and commonly used as a source of food for crewmen on trans-Atlantic ships . Centuries of harvest led to a rapid decline in the natural sea turtle population. In the 1960s, a turtle farm was established in the Cayman Islands , which bred turtles in captivity to provide a sustainable supply of turtle meat to cultures with a palate for it. One of the advantages, as argued by the farm owners is that this will eventually discourage poachers from harvesting turtles in the wild. The Cayman Turtle Farm has been operating for more than 40 years now, and has in the meantime also evolved to a flourishing cruise ship tourist attraction. Emily in Marine Life presents a description of the Cayman Turtle Farm.
Apparently, tourists all over the world who come to this place are introduced to the biology of sea turtles, including a description of their natural habitat. However, the pools shown to tourists are overcrowded and swimming in murky water, polluted with food pellets floating on the surface. . But, the farm’s treatment of sea turtles contradicts much of their “natural habitat”, which is the vast open ocean. Exposing children to a picture of an overcrowded stagnant pool, which may even harbour diseases such as Salmonella, viruses, fungi and parasites that can be passed on from turtle to humans , is not a desirable educational experience, is it? It might be time for the Cayman Turtle Farm to review its sea turtle manual and provide the sea turtles it breeds with a habitat that reflects more of its natural habitat.
To know more about sea turtles and their natural habitat, visit SeaLifeBase.
 IUCN (2013) IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. http://www.iucnredlist.org/ [Accessed 6/9/2013].
 Morriss, A. (2006) Survival of the sea turtle: Cayman turtle farm starts over. Property and Environment Research Center Report 24(3). http://perc.org/articles/survival-sea-turtle [Accessed 6/9/2013].
 Cayman Turtle Farm Island Wildlife Encounter (2013) Turtle encounters. http://www.turtle.ky/turtle-encounters [Accessed 6/9/2013].
 Tripp, E. (2013) Sea Turtle Farming: Conservation or Cruelty? Marine Science Today, http://marinesciencetoday.com/2013/01/29/sea-turtle-farming-conservation-or-cruelty/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+MarineScienceToday+%28Marine+Science+Today%29 [Accessed 6/9/2013].