No taxing effort to help save sea otters

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Defenders calls on Californians to donate to the Sea Otter Tax Fund

MONTEREY BAY, Calif. (04/07/2011) -

With the tax deadline fewer than two weeks away, filing your taxes may not be your favorite activity, but it could save close to 2,700 lives.

That’s what’s left of a population that used to hover around fifteen to seventeen thousand before the fur trade nearly drove them to extinction. Distressingly, the sea otter’s 3-year population average (2,711) has fallen for the second straight year. But with the help of the California Sea Otter Fund and caring Californians, scientists are looking into why sea otters are dying. This important research is largely funded by taxpayers through the voluntary tax check-off fund.

“The sea otter tax check-off has been wildly successful,” said Jim Curland, marine program associate with Defenders of Wildlife. “Since it was established four years ago, Californians have dug deep and have raised more than a million dollars to help sea otters return to our coasts. But this small, struggling population still needs our support.”

The California Tax Franchise Board says that the fund must raise at least $260,890 to be eligible to be included on the state tax form next year. But hitting this target isn’t the only hurdle the tax check-off program must overcome. Now in its fifth year, the fund is set to expire unless it’s reauthorized by the California Legislature. Fortunately, Assemblyman Bill Monning has floated a bill, AB 971, that will continue the tax-check off fund for another five years, but it must still collect enough in donations.  

“In addition to donating to the fund, Californians can show sea otters some love by contacting their state representatives and asking them to support this very important legislation,” Curland said. “Even if the fund hits its target, we must pass this bill or the fund itself could become extinct.”

The California Sea Otter Fund supports a long-term study by a coalition of researchers from U.S. Geological Survey, Monterey Bay Aquarium, California Department of Fish and Game, University of California at Santa Cruz, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others to determine the impacts of toxic chemicals and disease-carrying pollution on sea otters living along developed coastal areas. The research aims to find an explanation for why sea otter populations have fallen into decline after years of modest growth. These answers will be extremely important for deciding how best to protect both sea otters and the coastal ocean habitats they call home.               

Background:
  • Sea Otter Tax Fund must raise $260,890 this year to be eligible to be included on next year’s tax forms
  • 2010 marked the second straight year that the California sea otter 3-year population average declined
  • Assemblyman Bill Monning has introduced legislation to reauthorize the tax check-off program, which would otherwise expire this year, for another five years

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Links:

Learn more about sea otters.

Philippe Cousteau speaks out for sea otters on the blog. Check it out>>

Contact(s):

Jim Curland, (831) 726-9010
Brian Bovard, (202) 772-0284

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