11:39 PM

For Immediate Release

Caution Needed Over Latest Survey Results of the Southern Sea Otter Population

Carmel, Calif. – According to the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) 2018 spring survey of the southern sea otter population published today, sea otter numbers have declined off the coast of California since peaking in 2016, but the average population count remains above 3,090 for the third consecutive year. This year’s average count of 3,128 was 58 sea otters lower than the 2017 survey.

Under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Southern Sea Otter Recovery Plan, the Service may consider whether the sea otter should be considered for delisting under the Endangered Species Act. However, the Service qualified these newest survey findings by stating that it is important to review all factors influencing the population to determine whether delisting is appropriate using the best available science. In particular, the state and federal wildlife agencies noted that the five-year trend in sea otter populations along the northern edge of their range continued to drop, which is concerning because changes at the end of their range show that sea otter face difficulties in expanding their range.

Kim Delfino, California Program Director of Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement: 

“Three consecutive years of average sea otter counts above 3,090 is promising when you consider that this population was once considered extinct. However, the last two years of sea otter counts have declined. Sea otter recovery is still uncertain and continues to face obstacles on the road to recovery, including threats such as shark bite mortality and a lack of range expansion.”

Jennifer Covert, Board Chair for Friends of the Sea Otter, issued this statement:

“Friends of the Sea Otter have been fighting to protect sea otters for decades. Today is no different. Average numbers alone are not the sole fact in considering delisting for the southern sea otter population and there are many red flags that should have the Service questioning delisting for the species.”

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.