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Sea Otter Feasibility Assessment

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  • What's all the talk about sea otters?

    Sea otter floating with green crab (photo credit: Lillian Carswell USFWS)

    Did you know that sea otters used to live on the Oregon coast?  Once ranging across the North Pacific Rim from Japan to Baja California, sea otters were hunted nearly to extinction for the fur trade in the 1700s and 1800s.  By 1906 Oregon’s sea otters had been entirely extirpated, and – aside from a few wandering individuals that occasionally show up from Washington’s Olympic coast – have remained absent for more than 100 years now. More information.

  • Why are sea otters making the news in Oregon?

    Beach at Ecola Point, Oregon (photo credit: Bonnie Moreland/FLICKR)

    A local non-profit called the Elakha Alliance is evaluating the feasibility of bringing sea otters back to the Oregon Coast.  They released their own draft feasibility study which is focused on the potential restoration of sea otters to the Oregon coast specifically, available here.  You can learn all about the Elakha Alliance, their objectives, and their efforts here.

    Operating under a mandate from Congress, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was separately tasked with taking a look at the feasibility and cost of reintroducing sea otters on the Pacific coast, including Oregon, Washington, and California.  This directive stems from language that was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2021, passed on December 27, 2020. This Congressional directive requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to present a report back to Congress within one year of enactment, by the end of 2021. 

  • Why consider the reintroduction of sea otters?

    Sea otter floating

    The Congressional mandate to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service points to the sea otter’s “critical ecological role in the marine environment as a keystone species that significantly affects the structure and function of the surrounding ecosystem.”  More information.

  • When would reintroductions start?

    Sea otter floating with green crab (photo credit: Lillian Carswell USFWS)

    There is no active proposal to reintroduce sea otters to the Oregon coast – it is just a concept that is under consideration and up for discussion.  Our report back to Congress will focus on summarizing known information and  identification of key data gaps, as well as a summary of stakeholder perspectives.

    In the future, should there be a move to formally propose the reintroduction of sea otters, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would initiate a public review process under the National Environmental Policy Act; this process would include opportunities for the public to review and comment prior to any final Record of Decision.  

  • So what's next?

    sea otter swimming with gull (photo credit: Lillian Carswell USFWS)

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff are working on developing the key components for a preliminary reintroduction assessment for our report to Congress following the Guidelines for Reintroductions and Other Conservation Translocations, developed by the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (IUCN is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a global organization).  

    Our reintroduction assessment will include the consideration of reintroduction feasibility from an ecological standpoint as well as from a socioeconomic perspective. 

    We are convening discussions and soliciting feedback from stakeholder groups and the public to ensure that we are able to capture the full range of viewpoints in our report back to Congress. 

    Our assessment will be limited to a fact-based report on the feasibility of reintroduction; we will not be making any recommendation as to whether reintroduction should take place. 

  • For more information or if you have questions:

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    Please contact: Michele Zwartjes

    Newport Field Office Supervisor

    at (541) 867-4558 ext. 237.

    This page will be updated as more information becomes available.

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