Pulling the Plug on the “No Otter Zone”

In the 1980s, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) began a grand experiment called the “Sea Otter Management Zone.” The zone, which extended from Point Conception south to the US-Mexico border, was to be kept free of sea otters. Any sea otters found in the area were captured and “translocated” to San Nicholas Island, where FWS administrators hoped they would stay, establish a breeding colony relatively safe from oil spills, and refrain from getting into conflicts with the recreational and commercial shellfish harvesters operating in Southern California’s waters.

After decades of struggling to make this expensive and ineffective policy work, the FWS is finally proposing the end of the sea otter management project. The FWS concludes that the most effective sea otter management strategy will be to allow the sea otter population to expand naturally, including into the waters where sea otters were for decades prohibited. Read all about it, along with the reasons for the project’s establishment and the history of the project, in their latest management plan.

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