Contacts: Jane Hendron, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office – 760/207-4997 ext. 205Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for Sea Otter Translocation Program Now Available
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today the availability of a final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) regarding the translocation and management of southern sea otters.
The Notice of Availability will officially publish on Nov. 9, but an advance copy is posted online today at the Federal Register. The complete final SEIS is available online today at http://www.fws.gov/ventura/species_information/so_sea_otter/index.html.
There was a 78-day comment period on the revised draft SEIS, which included public hearings on September 27, October 4, and October 6, 2011. During the public review period, more than 6,000 oral and written comments were received. The final SEIS reflects public review and input on the range of alternatives regarding the sea otter translocation program.
The final SEIS looks at several alternatives for the translocation program and includes the Service’s preferred alternative, which is to end the program, allow sea otters to remain at San Nicolas Island, and allow sea otters to reclaim their historic range.
A final decision regarding the translocation program has not yet been made. However, the Service expects a decision will be made before the end of 2012.
Originally designed to provide a safeguard against population loss from an oil spill, the translocation program was established by regulation in 1987, under the authority of Public Law 99-625, passed by Congress in 1986. Its aim was to provide for sea otter recovery while avoiding potential conflicts between sea otters and other interests, such as commercial fishing. Although the law did not require the Service to implement a translocation program, it mandated that if a translocation program was put in place, it would have a “translocation zone” (where sea otters would be brought) and a “management zone,” which would be kept otter-free by non-lethal means. The Service designated the area around San Nicolas Island as the translocation zone, into which part of the sea otter population was relocated in order to establish a new, separate population, and initiated efforts to capture and remove any sea otters that were found south of Point Conception in Santa Barbara County, California.
A total of 140 sea otters were moved to San Nicolas Island from the population along the central California coast in 1987, but many of them returned to their parent population along the central coast. Since that time, the population of otters at San Nicolas Island has remained small. The management zone is also problematic for the species because since the late 1990s, natural range expansion into the zone has been occurring, and because some of the animals removed from the management zone subsequently died.
Southern sea otters were hunted almost to extinction in the 1800s. The species was listed as threatened under the ESA in 1977. Today, there are about 2,800 southern sea otters inhabiting the coastline from San Mateo County south to Santa Barbara County and approximately 50 sea otters at San Nicolas Island in Ventura County.
A photo of the southern sea otter is available on our Flickr page.
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