The sea otter is the largest member of the weasel family and the smallest marine mammal. Ninety percent of the world’s sea otters live in coastal Alaska.
Mammal Protection Act protects sea otters. It prohibits commercial harvest of sea otters, and allows Alaska natives to hunt sea otters for subsistence and creation of handicrafts.
Sea otters were hunted nearly to extinction in the late 1700s and 1800s through commercial harvest for their luxurious furs. Once commercial harvest ceased, sea otter numbers rebounded and they re-colonized much of their former range.
Sea otter numbers have declined in southwestern Alaska over the past 20 years. Once containing more than half of the world’s sea otters, this population segment, which ranges from Kodiak Island through the western Aleutian Islands, has undergone an overall population decline of at least 55–67 percent since the mid-1980s. In 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed this distinct population segment as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. See the Southwest Alaska sea otter recovery page for more details.
Final Guidance on Clarification of the Term "significantly altered" under the Marine Mammal Protection Act with regard to Sea Otters.
This final guidance was published by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on November 18, 2013 and may be found here.