Federal and State Efforts To Conserve and Protect the Southern Sea Otter Population

RCED-84-139: Published: Apr 17, 1984. Publicly Released: Apr 17, 1984.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the status of Federal and State efforts to conserve and protect the southern sea otter population, which is located off the California coast.

Problems associated with Federal and State management of the sea otter include: (1) conflicts between sea otter interest groups, shellfish interest groups, the oil and gas industry, and commercial and recreational fishermen; (2) the limited range and small population of sea otters, which make them vulnerable to oil spills; and (3) sea otter mortality from fish net entanglement. Shellfish interest groups and fishermen are concerned because sea otters eat economically valuable shellfish. The oil and gas industry is concerned that plans to relocate sea otter colonies could interfere with exploration and development activities. Efforts to protect sea otters include: (1) California Department of Fish and Game monitoring of fishery-induced otter mortality; (2) Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) development of various plans to translocate sea otter colonies; and (3) Marine Mammal Commission oversight activities. Pursuant to a Commission recommendation, FWS will soon appoint a full-time coordinator for sea otter protection and conservation activities.

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