Featured Image Credit: Flickr/ Mike Baird
By: Laura O’Brien
Southern (or California) sea otters are protected by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, as well as by state law in California. The species had previously been very populous worldwide, there may have been as many as a million or more. Unfortunately, the fur trade decimated the Southern sea otter population in the 18th and 19th century; until they were believed to be extinct. When a tiny group of the otters was found, efforts were made to help their desperately small population bounce back.
Although the efforts have yielded positive results, there are only about 3,186 known Southern sea otters. Despite growth in their population, the otters remain protected by law. Harming, harassing, and possessing the body parts/ pelts without a permit are all prohibited; and the punishments are severe. Consequences for those illegal actions against otters can result in imprisonment or up to $100,000 in fines.
Some people in California may be brought to justice under these protective laws soon; as there have been several attacks against the otters recently. The most recent otter was killed by an attack with a pellet gun according to the necropsy. That same otter had been rescued and rehabilitated last year, after being tangled in fishing line
The discovery that the otter had been saved and later released, only to be murdered with a pellet gun is very disheartening to officials. Mike Harris, a scientist who had helped rescue that otter last year said, “The senseless shooting of any sea otter is concerning, but to discover a case such as this, where a team of conservation organizations had already successfully treated the animal for a life-threatening entanglement, is exceptionally troubling and frustrating”.
More otters have been brutally attacked in the area as well, including three who were shot last year and one who was found skinned. These are part of a string of crimes against the animals which has taken place on the coast of California. We are very disturbed to hear about the violence occurring against the protected species. Best of luck to the officials who work to protect marine mammals, and those who will stop those responsible for the violence. We hope you are successful in preventing more senseless attacks.
Learn more from our source.