In the past few months you may have heard or read about rare sea otter sightings off San Diego and Laguna Beach. It has been decades since sea otters were seen off the coast of southern California and we are thrilled to hear about these sightings. This is good and bad news all in one.
Good news because male otters, which are known for venturing hundreds of miles from their normal floating waters, may be seeking out new territory to move into once the “No-Otter” Zone is finally removed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in December 2012.
But why is this bad news you may ask? Well, sea otters found in the “No-Otter” Zone, which is from Point Conception near Santa Barbara down to the U.S.-Mexico border, are not protected under the Endangered Species Act.
So, although we are excited about these sightings, we are also fearful of what may happen to these brave adventurous males. As we know, some fisherman do not take kindly to otters moving into “their territory.”
Otters moving back into southern California waters will benefit the nearshore environment despite what many fisherman would have you believe. Yes, otters do eat a lot of shellfish, especially sea urchins who create wastelands where kelp once flourished, and will have some impact but they will also restore the natural balance to the ecosystem and bring many other benefits.
If you live in southern California, you should welcome the otters home and celebrate their return.