The Sea Otter and the Kelp Crab

The Sea Otter and the Kelp Crab

What happens to a sea otter after sparing the life of a small kelp crab? I created this painting to celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week.

“The Sea Otter and the Kelp Crab” – Acrylic on Canvas, 14” x 11” x 0.5” Sold

A limited-edition, signed print is available here.

After a morning meal, a Sea Otter played about his kelp forest home. Diving this way, flipping the other, he was having a great time. As he played, he bumped into the kelp and unexpectedly, nearly knocked a Crab off his perch. Now the Crab had been camouflaged quite well and you see these are normally a tasty treat for a Sea Otter. In the Crab’s fright, she rose her claws in a panic.

“Spare me!” begged the poor Crab. “Please let me go and someday I will surely repay you.”

The Sea Otter was much amused to think that a Crab could ever help him. But he was generous and finally let the Kelp Crab go.

Some days later, while searching for delicious sea urchins in the forest, the Sea Otter was caught in the toils of a fisherman’s net. Unable to free himself, he thrashed, whining, scared, and confused. The Crab peered around from his Kelp lookout and quickly found the Sea Otter struggling in the net. The Kelp Crab scurried down to one of the lines that bound him, she tore at it with her claws until it parted, and soon the Sea Otter was free.

“You laughed when I said I would repay you,” said the Kelp Crab. “Now you see that even a Crab can help a Sea Otter.”

A kindness is never wasted.

I was inspired to write this based on Æsop’s fable for Children, The Lion & the Mouse.

About the painting process:  To create the kelp forest setting, I layered dozens of brush strokes to get the light-infused watery background. After positioning the otter and crab figures, I carefully added the details and hints of rainbow colors.

More you Otter know about Sea Otters

Sea otters are more than just a cute face. They are a keystone species, meaning their role in the ecosystem is much bigger than you might suspect. Sea otters like to eat urchins, which like to eat kelp. If sea otter numbers go down, sea urchin numbers go up. This large group of urchins will eat way more kelp than it should and can harm the important habitat kelp provides. Kelp forests nourish and house fish and invertebrates, absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and protect coasts from storm surges. Healthy sea otters = healthy kelp.

Sea urchins aren’t the only thing on the menu: Sea otters also eat a variety of mollusks and crustaceans. When there are not enough sea otters to chow down on crabs, crab populations increase. Then, crabs eat too many sea slugs, which are important grazers on the reef. Without as many sea slugs, there is too much algae on seagrass, which throws the habitat out of balance.

  1. 12 Facts about Otters for Sea Otter Awareness Week. (2018, December 18). U.S. Department of the Interior.
  2. Sea Otter. (2019, April 4). National Geographic.

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