Nyac, the Vancouver, B.C., sea otter, who gained worldwide notoriety through YouTube, has died.

The 20-year-old female otter was Vancouver Aquarium's oldest resident, and a survivor of the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

More than 11 million people have watched a video of Nyac holding hands with another otter at the aquarium since it was posted last March.

Nyac was born in late 1988. She came to the Vancouver Aquarium in 1989, along with eight other otter survivors of the deadly oil spill.

She quickly became a favourite of visitors and staff alike.

"It is an extremely sad day with the passing of one of our favourite animals," says Vancouver Aquarium's Clint Wright.

"Nyac helped engage and inspire millions of visitors. Her life has been an amazing journey for all of us to share. She lived long, has been adored by millions, and is an inspirational story of hope against the backdrop of a substantial environmental tragedy."

Staff say Nyac's health had been deteriorating over the past three years.

A sudden decrease in mobility in July prompted multiple blood tests on the otter, who was at the upper limit of a female sea otter life span

The tests confirmed she was suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a condition that had not been previously reported in sea otters.

She was placed under palliative care, and passed away this morning.

Dr. Martin Haulena, a Veterinarian that worked with the animal closely, said her death will not be in vain.

"From a medical perspective, Nyac is also very important because of her long life," says Haulena. "Even as we'll miss her, we know she'll continue to provide vital information on the long-term effects of oil exposure."