SEA OTTER: Enhydra lutris Sea otters are a keystone species, which means they have a significant effect on their environment. These mammals live in and maintain kelp forests along the shallow waters of North America’s Pacific coast, Russia and Japan. The majority of sea otters are currently residing off the coast of Alaska. Beginning in the 1700’s, the sea otter population decreased heavily due to the fur trade. Historically numbering up to one million, around the 1990’s the number plummeted to just over 1,000. The population has since regenerated and is currently believed to be over 100,000.