Lois Grunwald (805) 644-1766, ext. 332
A draft stock assessment report for the southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) off the California coast will be available tomorrow, June 10. This report was developed in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).
The Notice of Availability for the southern sea otter stock assessment report will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow. The report, which is a result of a court-ordered settlement, summarizes recent information on human-caused mortality and sea otter population trends through 2007. The assessment does not include the 2008 spring survey count of sea otters, which is not yet available. The Notice of Availability of the sea otter stock assessment can be viewed electronically at the Federal Register today at: http://federalregister.gov/page2.aspx#regular
One of the goals of the MMPA is to ensure that stocks of marine mammals occurring in waters under the jurisdiction of the United States do not experience a level of human-caused mortality and serious injury that is likely to cause the stock to be reduced below its optimum sustainable population level. To help accomplish this goal, the MMPA requires the Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to prepare stock assessment reports for each marine mammal stock that occurs in waters under the jurisdiction of the United States. The stock assessments are to be based on the best scientific information available.
The draft stock assessment report will be available for public review and comment for 90 days. Comments may be submitted by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, faxed to 805/644-3958, or mailed or hand-delivered to: Field Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B; Ventura, CA 93003. Comments must be received by September 9, 2008.
The report can be viewed in Adobe Acrobat by navigating to the species information page for the southern sea otter at http://www.fws.gov/ventura, by writing to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, CA 93003, or by contacting Lois Grunwald at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (805) 644-1766, ext. 332.
The stock assessment report indicates that although California?s sea otter population has continued, on average, to grow slowly (about 5 percent annually from 2001-2007), sea otters remain vulnerable to disease and catastrophic events. Whether sea otters are being taken in commercial fisheries is largely unknown because there are no observer programs for most of the California fisheries that may interact with sea otters.
The southern sea otter once ranged from Oregon south to Baja California, Mexico. During the 18th and 19th centuries, otters were hunted for their luxurious pelts; by the early 1900s the species was nearly extinct, with only a small remnant colony surviving off the Big Sur coast. This key species in the California marine ecosystem was listed as threatened in 1977 under the Endangered Species Act and is considered a depleted species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov