Defenders in Action: No-Otter Zone
In 1986, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) implemented a translocation program that removed otters from the shoreline of southern California and relocated them to San Nicolas Island. The hope was that establishing a second viable population would protect the species in case of any environmental disaster. At the same time, FWS implemented a “no otter” zone south of Point Conception from which otters would be removed and transported back north of the zone’s boundary.
Translocation failed to promote otter recovery and the FWS subsequently determined that enforcement of the “no-otter” zone violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by jeopardizing the species’ recovery due to harm to the animals during transport.
How We’re Helping
The FWS has long recognized that natural range expansion is necessary to achieve species recovery for the California sea otter. Federal wildlife officials released a draft plan in August 2011 that would end the controversial “no otter” zone on the California coast and allow the marine mammals to re-colonize their traditional habitat.
During the 60-day public comment period required before the policy could be changed, Defenders of Wildlife supporters sent in more than 11,600 comments to the FWS to show their support for the repeal of the “no otter” zone.
Where We Are Today
On December 18, 2012 the FWS signed a final rule that formally put an end to the "no otter zone," ending the experiment in active management of otters on California's coast and truly allowing natural range expansion to occur. Read more on our blog.