Statement: Southern sea otters to retain federal protection

Media Contacts


Steve Blackledge

Senior Director, Conservation America Campaign, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Oakland, Calif. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced on Tuesday that southern sea otters will remain protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. The decision came after a 12-month review by the agency, initiated by a petition from the California Sea Urchin Commission and the Commercial Fishermen of Santa Barbara calling for the government to “delist” these otters. 

Fur hunting in the 1800s decimated the species. Just a handful gave the slip to the hunters and settled along the central California coast. Today, only 3,000 or so exist, and their range is limited and curtailed by sharks and other threats. 

During the USFWS review, Environment America Research & Policy Center, Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center, and Environment California Research & Policy Center had argued in a public comment that the species is not yet ready for “delisting.” 

In response, Environment California Research & Policy Center State Director Laura Deehan issued the following statement: 

“Southern sea otters belong up and down the California and Oregon coast, but today they only live along a fraction of it. 

“These playful little creatures are far more than cute. Their presence helps restore entire marine ecosystems, including the growth of healthy kelp forests that store the carbon that can pollute our air and heat up our climate. 

“Keeping these otters protected was the right call to help the species get to the day when it fully reclaims its West Coast turf and no longer needs these protections.” 

Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center State Director Celeste Meiffren-Swango issued the following statement:

“We’re sending a big thank you to the Fish and Wildlife Service for keeping southern sea otters protected. The next priority is to reintroduce sea otters along our coastline. Once that successfully happens, we can all truly celebrate the recovery of this species.”