Support Federal Wildlife Agency for Saving California Sea Otters


Target: Lilian Carswell, Southern Sea Otter Recovery & Marine Conservation Coordinator at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Goal: Allow endangered sea otters to occupy their historical range.

Four fisherman groups are filing a lawsuit over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to end the “no otter zone” in Southern California. The “no otter zone” was a poorly managed translocation program established in 1987 to advance sea otter recovery in the southern portion of the state of California. The management zone or “no otter zone”  was a compromise between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Navy, the offshore oil industry, and shellfish fishermen objecting to the establishment of a reserve population of sea otters in the Channel Islands. Otters were prohibited from living in Santa Barbara County to the U.S.-Mexico border and were trapped and deported back to Northern California when found.

Now that the outdated and ineffective plan – that often harmed otters in transport – is no more, otters are free to occupy their historical range from Baja California to the Pacific Northwest. In order for sea otter populations to recover, they must be able to freely swim where they need to go and expand their natural range. Various conservation groups applaud this step toward restoring healthy populations of this important keystone species.

Sea otters remain classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources’ Red List because several large population declines has left current small dispersed populations with low genetic diversity and inability to thrive in their ocean environment . Otters were  historically overexploited for their fur, and are currently endangered by major threats including oil spills, becoming caught as bycatch in trammel and gill nets used by commercial fisheries, the disruption of food availability and foraging behavior due to climate change, and contracting zoonotic parasites and diseases.

Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that you support their decision to end the “no otter zone” and encourage them not to give into pressure from fishermen to reinstate it.


Dear Lilian Carswell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

I would like to commend our federal wildlife agency for finally ending the “no otter zone” which has jeopardized the survival of the endangered species. By protecting the sea otter’s ability to recolonize its natural historical range in Southern California waters, we not only support the recovery of sea otter populations, we also promote the balance of healthy marine ecosystems. Sea otters are a keystone species that balance kelp forest ecosystems off the California coast. Without sea otters, various invertebrate animals flourish and destroy the kelp, which provides important habitat to many fish species that humans and other animals depend on.

Attempting to keep endangered sea otters from swimming to a particular part of the ocean fails to promote their recovery and causes more harm than good for the animals during stressful and sometimes injurious transport attempts. I encourage you to honor your obligation to conserve sea otters and allow them access to their natural habitat. It is important that you do not compromise sea otter conservation goals by reinstating the “no otter zone” in the future to appease fishermen who have filed a lawsuit. You have the support of many conservation organizations who will defend your actions in order to protect sea otter populations.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Jack Segall via Smugmug

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