Otter relocation program dubbed a failure
February 10, 2010
An attempt to draw a line in the ocean to separate sea otters from fisherman is not working because the otters have failed to cooperate, causing several different groups to fight over proposed changes to the 23-year-old policy. [ABC]
Fish and Game officials undertook a program to protect both otters and fishermen by separating the two through designating otter habitats. As part of the relocation program, officials would capture otters that had traveled into the “no otter zones,” and return them safely outside the zone.
The otter zone, designated in 1987, stretched from just south of San Francisco to just north of Santa Barbara at Point Conception. In addition, an island 62 miles off the shore of Los Angeles was chosen to contain an experimental otter colony.
Proponents of the plan promised to confine the otters to their allotted territories — a promise they were unable to keep, even though they spent an estimated $10,000 per otter as part of the relocation effort.
The Channel Island Colony attempt was a failure, with most of the otters refusing to follow the plan. Many died while trying to swim hundreds of miles back to their northward homelands.
In 1993, Fish and Game officials stopped returning stray otters and a few years later began looking at rewriting their policy. However, that plan has been stalled by the Navy’s concerns that extending the otters territory could harm their operations.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Defense Center has filed a law suit asking that the relocation policy be dubbed a failure and discontinued. The federal government is fighting the suit and divers have voiced their fears that the $10 million urchin industry could perish if the four-foot member of the weasel family continues to migrate out of their approved zones.