Marine Mammals Management
Alaska Region


Sea Otter

Marine Mammals Management biologists work to keep the Alaska sea otter population and its habitats healthy and ensure there will be opportunities for a variety of human uses, including subsistence hunting and wildlife viewing.

Skiff surveys. John Piatt/USGS.

  • We track sea otter population abundance, trends, and distribution throughout Alaska using aerial and boat-based surveys. Following Section 117 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we produce periodic Stock Assessment Reports for sea otters.  See our Reports page for information on current stock assessments.
  • For the population stocks listed under the Endangered Species Act we produce recovery plans, determine critical habitat and review listing status. For more information
  • We provide pertinent information to the Service’s Endangered Species Office for Section 7 consultations.
  • We monitor health, disease, and patterns of mortality for sea otters in Alaska by; assessing information from ‘healthy’ live-captured animals, assessing information from stranded animals, and conducting forensic necropsies on dead sea otters.  For more information on some of our results see our Reports page
  • We work with the Alaska SeaLife Center and the Alaska volunteer stranding network to respond to all live stranded and dead sea otters where possible.  We assist in placing orphaned pups with approved aquariums i.e. see Oregon Coast Aquarium.
  • We use data from the Marking, Tagging and Reporting Program to assess harvest patterns of sea otters legally hunted by Alaska Native peoples.
  • We collaborate with research organizations. For example, we work to conduct research examining the impact of sea otter recolonization on commercial and subsistence fisheries in the Southeast Alaska population stock with the University of Alaska, the Alaska Sea Grant program and the North Pacific Research Board (for more information on this particular project)
  • We present our latest research at scientific conferences and publish papers in peer-reviewed journals (see Reports page )
  • We work with graduate students, volunteers and interns on a variety of sea otter management and research projects.  For more information about these opportunities
  • We work with Alaska Native Organizations, for example, the Indigenous People’s Council on Marine Mammals, on issues of mutual concern and information sharing.  We engage in Government to Government consultations with Tribes.  For more information on Alaska Native relations.
  • We respond to pollution events, such as boat wrecks and oil spills that may threaten sea otters.
  • We provide comments on resource and conservation plans i.e. oil spill response planning documents and provide interagency reviews as well as testimony at public meetings.
  • We sit on expert panels to provide the most current information on sea otter management and research and provide peer reviews for reports and publications.
  • We review permits for the Service’s Division of Management Authority on requests to work with sea otters from researchers, photographers, documentary film makers, and aquariums.
  • We work with Industry (i.e. oil and gas exploration in Cook Inlet) to make sure development is not in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.  We review applications for Incidental Harassment Authorization.
  • We conduct outreach and education about sea otters, their conservation, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act at many different venues i.e. schools, special events, Tribal and community meetings


Last updated: April 2018