04:09 PM

Environmental Groups Welcome Decision to End Harmful “No-Otter” Zone

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published its final decision to end southern California’s “no-otter” zone. The zone was put in place nearly 25 years ago as part of a “translocation program” that sought to create a new population of sea otters on San Nicolas Island, one of the Channel Islands. The translocation program failed, however, and the “no-otter” zone meant that California’s threatened sea otters were prevented from reoccupying historic habitat needed for their recovery.

Friends of the Sea Otter, Monterey Bay Aquarium, The Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, and Oceans Public Trust Initiative, a project of Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Program applaud this final decision by FWS as a positive step toward the ultimate restoration of a healthy sea otter population along our coast.

California sea otters are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The 1986 the translocation program was designed as a way to establish a second viable population that would protect the species in the event of an oil spill or other environmental disaster. As part of this program, FWS agreed to create a “no-otter” zone south of Point Conception from which sea otters would be
captured and moved back north of the zone’s boundary. Translocation failed to promote sea otter recovery, and FWS subsequently determined that enforcement of the “no-otter” zone jeopardized the continued survival of the species because of the harm caused when moving sea otters out of the “no-otter” zone. FWS has long recognized that natural range expansion is necessary to achieve recovery of the California sea otter.

Jim Curland, Advocacy Program Director, Friends of the Sea Otter stated, "It is long overdue, but a great day for sea otters to have this impediment to natural range expansion lifted.”

Cindy Lowry, Director, Oceans Public Trust Initiative, a Project of the International Marine Mammal Project of the Earth Island Institute said, “This is a good sign for sea otters being able to freely reoccupy historic habitat”.

“Sea otters face very real threats, from coastal pollution to a rise in deaths from shark bites,” said Andy Johnson, manager of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program. “The ‘no-otter’ zone was another barrier to their recovery. It’s great news that this impediment has been removed.”

“With the long overdue disbanding of the failed “no-otter” zone, the Fish and Wildlife Service has finally confirmed that sea otters should be allowed to range freely along the California coast. This is an important step for California’s sea otters and for California’s natural heritage as a whole.” said Kim Delfino, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife.

Sharon Young, Marine Issues Field Director, The HSUS: “We are pleased to see an official end to this program that had no chance of succeeding or advancing recovery of sea otters. Sea otters swim freely. They should not be kept from moving into areas of the ocean where they need to go, and The Humane Society of the United States applauds the government’s move to keep it that way.”


Friends of the Sea Otter is committed to and advocates for the conservation of sea otters and the preservation of their habitat, through education, research, and policy decisions that will ensure the long-term survival of this species. Visit www.seaotters.org

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization –backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty -- On the web at humanesociety.org

The mission of the Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the oceans. Through its award-winning exhibits, education programs, conservation research initiatives and ocean policy advocacy, it reaches millions of people and advances progress toward creating a future with healthy oceans. www.montereybayaquarium.org

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than one 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 www.defenders.org. Follow us on Twitter at @DefendersNews

Oceans Public Trust Initiative is a project developed out of a concern over the rapid expansion of offshore renewable energy development, as well as oil and gas, and those impacts on marine species.