U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Alaska Sea Otter Hunting & Handicrafting


    Before Hunting

    Who may harvest sea otters in Alaska
    Alaska Native peoples (50 CFR Part 18.3 Definitions), who reside in Alaska and dwell on the coast may harvest sea otters without a permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The harvest must be accomplished in a non-wasteful manner. Non-Alaska Native peoples may accompany Alaska Native hunters as observers, but may not participate in the hunt.

    A Kodiak sea otter swims on its back. Credit: Lisa Hupp/USFWS


    During the Hunt

    Where you can hunt
    The Marine Mammal Protection Act does not limit the areas of Alaska where sea otters may be harvested. However, there may be some areas with hunting or access restrictions, such as National Parks, state game sanctuaries, or private land. Some Tribal governments have written and are implementing sea otter management plans which encourage or discourage hunting in specific areas. Some areas have state or local ordinances limiting where firearms can be discharged.

    How many sea otters can you harvest and what methods are allowed
    There is no federal harvest limit for sea otters and no restrictions on the methods in which they may be taken. Some local areas or Tribal governments may have local guidance, and we encourage you to check with the nearest Tribal government.

    After the Hunt

    Tag your Harvest
    Hunters must have their raw sea otter hides and skulls tagged by a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service tagger within 30 days of harvest. If more than one sea otter is taken for tagging at the same time, hunters must match the skull with the correct hide. The tags must stay on the hide and skull for as long as practical during the handcrafting process. Tagging is a management tool which gives biologists information about the animals and where they are being taken. A pre-molar tooth may be removed from the skull and kept by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as part of the tagging process. To find the closest tagger or to get answers about tagging contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Marking, Tagging and Reporting program by email FW7_ak_marine_mammals@fws.gov or phone (907) 786-3800 or 1-800-362-5148 or visit the Marking, Tagging and Reporting page.

    Tanning Sea Otter Hides
    The tags must remain attached to the hide throughout the tanning process and until the skin has been cut into parts for creating an authentic Native article of handicraft or clothing. Home, or self-tanning, by Alaska Native peoples is allowed without a permit. Commercial tanneries must be registered with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to be able to tan sea otter hides. List of registered tanneries, or call the USFWS at 907-786-3311.

    Selling Sea Otter Parts

    Selling to Alaska Native Peoples
    Unaltered (tanned or untanned) sea otter parts or whole hides may be sold or traded to other Alaska Native peoples or to a registered agent for resale to other Alaska Native peoples.

    Selling to Non- Alaska Native Peoples
    Sea otter parts must be significantly altered into an authentic Native handicraft, by an Alaska Native person, in order for them to be sold to non- Alaska Native peoples.

    Authentic Native Handicrafts
    Alaska Native peoples may make both traditional items (such as mittens) and non-traditional items (such as teddy bears) using sea otter parts. The items may have non-traditional features such as zippers, buttons and snaps. However, the items must be significantly altered in order to be considered authentic Native handicrafts and be saleable to non-Alaska Native peoples.

    Significantly Altered
    A sea otter will be considered “significantly altered” when it is no longer recognizable as a whole sea otter hide, and has been made into a handicraft or article of clothing as is identified below:

    • A tanned, dried, cured, or preserved sea otter hide, devoid of the head, feet, and tail (i.e., blocked) that is substantially changed by any of the following, but is not limited to: weaving, carving, stitching, sewing, lacing, beading, drawing, painting, other decorative fashions, or made into another material or medium; and cannot be easily converted back to an unaltered hide or piece of hide.
    • Tanned, dried, cured, or preserved sea otter head, tail, or feet, or other parts devoid of the remainder of the hide which includes any of the following, but is not limited to: weaving, carving, stitching, sewing, lacing, beading, drawing, or painting, other decorative fashions, or made into another material or medium.

    Significantly Altered Photo Gallery (Examples of items that are, and are not, significantly altered)

    Sea Otter Hides…What is “Significantly Altered Fact” Sheet

    Guidance… Clarification of the Phrase “Significantly Altered” as it Pertains to Items made from Sea Otter

    Transporting Sea Otter Parts or Products across International Boundaries

    No one may trade or take a sea otter part or product into Canada (even if they have relatives there) because Canadian law prohibits the take of sea otters and does not allow commerce involving sea otter parts or products.

    All sea otter populations are listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and require a CITES permit to be transported across international boundaries. The CITES permit is required even if the product has been made into an authentic Native handicraft.

    Some countries, however, may allow sea otter products to move across the border if they are personal effects. For more information about permits, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife import/export office in Anchorage at (907) 271-6198.

    For more information: