Reward Offered in Killing of California Sea Otter

(10/05/2000) - A $7,500 reward is being offered by Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Sea Otter, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Law Enforcement for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the September killing of a sea otter in Monterey Bay.

An examination of the dead sea otter found two weeks ago in Monterey Bay waters has confirmed that the animal died of a gunshot wound. This follows the discovery in mid-April of another otter found shot to death on a beach north of Point Conception. A reward remains standing for those responsible for the killing of this sea otter.

The marine mammal is protected under both federal and state law.

"We are outraged by these senseless shootings," said Nancy Weiss, California Species Associate for Defenders of Wildlife. "Anyone who thinks by killing sea otters they are helping protect other ocean organisms or, perhaps, fishermen, is tragically mistaken -- it’s just the opposite," she stated.

In the marine ecosystem, sea otters are considered "keystone species," meaning that their presence or absence has a significant impact on other marine species. Foraging habits of sea otters limit the number of shellfish and other plant-eating species which would otherwise greatly reduce kelp forests. Kelp forests, in turn, serve as important nursery grounds for many types of fin fishes. Scientists thus believe sea otters contribute significantly to the overall marine ecosystem.

"The continued senseless killing of sea otters will simply not be tolerated by the general public at large," said Cindy Lowry, Executive Director for Friends of the Sea Otter. "This reward reflects the growing sentiment of zero tolerance for these types of heinous crimes against marine mammals," she stated, adding "We hope the reward will be instrumental in identifying the culprits involved and that appropriate legal action will soon follow."

Weiss said Defenders of Wildlife is concerned about what appears to be "a developing pattern of violent action against an already imperiled and protected species." She emphasized the importance of public involvement in solving both shooting incidents, stating, "We hope that anyone with information that could lead to the apprehension of the individual or individuals involved will do the right thing and call the Caltip poaching hotline at 1-888-334-2258."

Defenders of Wildlife’s contribution comes from their Imperiled Predator Reward Fund established in 1998 to bring illegal predator killers to justice.

Defenders of Wildlife, with more than 400,000 members and supporters, is a leading nonprofit conservation organization recognized as one of the nation’s most progressive advocates for wildlife and its habitat.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270