SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KION-TV)- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife announced that the southern otter will retain its threatened status under the Endangered Species Act.
“Threats facing southern sea otters and coastal ecosystems are getting worse, not better,” said Defenders’ California Representative Andrew Johnson. “Today’s announcement must be followed by direct management action to restore sea otters to their historical range and reduce the fatal effects of climate change.”
Fish and Wildlife analyzed the southern sea otter's status based on five factors the" destruction or curtailment of a species’ habitat or range, levels of disease and predation, and natural or human-caused existential threats."
Several groups argued that southern sea otters didn't require protection anymore because their population had increased significantly since its listing back in 1977.
"Climate change and other anthropogenic effects have increased harmful algal blooms and decreased kelp canopy cover, conditions that have contributed to high sea otter disease rates and the rise in white shark attacks.," said Fish and Wildlife.
In 2021, Congress told FWS to reintroduce southern sea otters to parts of the West Coast from Japan to Mexico which they once inhabited. A feasibility assessment concluded that reintroduction was possible in these areas and would provide significant benefits for the sea otters.
The framework for this reintroduction could be completed by early 2024.
“Pursuing reintroduction will require collaboration with all stakeholders, and we look forward to supporting FWS in leading that process,” Johnson said. “We welcome strong leadership from tribal partners and will have to resolve or mitigate longstanding conflicts with fisheries. But we can do it – and the otters, the ecosystems and the coastal communities will all benefit from our collective efforts.”