California Southern Sea Otters have been listed in the Endangered Species Act since 1977. Currently, they only occupy 13% of their historical range, mainly occupying the northern Coast of California and little to no population spread across the middle and southern California Coast.

The California News Service recently released a statement informing the public that the federal government is seeking public input on the reintroduction of sea otters to select regions of California and Oregon. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold open houses to gather feedback. 

“Historically, a quarter million sea otters lived along the Pacific Rim, but fur traders hunted them to near extinction. The southern sea otter population in California expanded from a few dozen 100 years ago to about 3000 now,” the statement said.

With almost 99% of their population killed off by traders, sea otters were on the verge of extinction. The only survivors were a group of 50 sea otters discovered in Monterey Bay.

Although their population has gradually grown, it hasn't yet reached the level it once had.

The government is seeking the public’s input on reintroducing sea otters to their natural habitats as it would greatly benefit the ecosystem. However, there are still some concerns that need to be addressed.

The reintroduction of sea otters promises a multitude of advantages, including:

  • Restoration of habitat health
  • Enrichment of biodiversity
  • Mitigation of climate change impacts through the preservation of healthy kelp forests and eelgrass beds, crucial for combatting rising sea levels and extreme weather events                             
  • Impacting ecotourism which will better the economy and business 
  • Increasing sea otters’ geographical range, which could potentially save them from extinction

However, there are still concerns about bringing the sea otter back

  •  There is a potential risk to shellfish fisheries due to predation by sea otters on crabs, clams, and sea urchins
  •  There are still not enough studies supporting their reintroduction

Sea otters face several environmental threats, including oil spills, pollutants, low genetic diversity, diseases, shark encounters, and the effects of climate change.

However, with a thriving population, they possess the resilience to confront and withstand many of these challenges.

It will take several years to see otters on our coast due to the lengthy reintroduction process. However, with unwavering commitment and active assistance, the West Coast has the potential to witness the resurgence of sea otters.

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