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CONTACT: Defenders of Wildlife
Jim Curland, Defenders of Wildlife, (831) 726-9010 James Navarro, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0247
Defenders of Wildlife Applauds the Passage of Important Sea Otter Bill by House of Representatives
Bill includes funding to address the problems facing the southern sea otter population
MONTEREY, Calif. - July 29 - Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 316 to 107 to approve passage of the Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Research Act (H.R. 556). This important legislation would further recovery efforts for the critically imperiled southern sea otter population by establishing an assessment on sea otter health to determine why the population is declining and providing funding for grants to address the current threats to sea otters.
"Defenders of Wildlife is grateful for the leadership shown by Rep. San Farr and Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, chair of the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife in securing this vital action to help recover California's sea otters," said Jim Curland, the marine program associate with Defenders of Wildlife.
The current three-year average for the southern sea otter population, based on the most recent Spring 2009 count, is 2,813, down a slight drop from the previous average of 2,826, the first time the trend has been negative since the late 1990s. The current threats include food limitations, disease, habitat degradation, the potential for getting caught in fishing gear, and possibly other things. Oil spills are a continued threat to this population. This bill will help ongoing as well as new research by USGS scientists and research partners in trying to identify important sources of mortality in sea otters, and the underlying reasons for the sluggish rate of recovery and variable population trends.
"Sea otters are essential for the health of California's coastline and a much beloved animal nationwide. These playful and charismatic species are the main predators for sea urchins, abalone and other kelp-eating species. Without sea otters, these kelp forests would disappear, depriving our coast of key nurseries for many important fish species and as a buffer against storms," Curland said.
"Helping the recovery of the Southern sea otter has the added benefit of increasing Central Coast tourism revenue," Rep. Farr said. "Fans of the otter contributed hundreds of thousands of tourism dollars every year to our communities, a big factor in contributing to the recovery of our local economy."
"We look forward to working with the Senate to enact this bill which will provide vital resources to conserve our beloved sea otters," Curland added.