Marine Mammals Management
Alaska Region


Sea Otter

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.Mom with her pup in the water.  Photo Credit:  Randall Davis

The Marine 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 Sea Otters and the Endangered Species Act page for more details.



Last updated: May 12, 2014