[MARMAM] One Last Opportunity: Letter From Concerned Scientists_Southern Sea Otter Translocation Program

Jim Curland curland at earthlink.net
Tue Feb 7 09:13:29 PST 2006

I've pasted the letter below with the names of the current list of 

Dear Marmam members,

We are on the home stretch for providing written comments on the Draft 
SEIS for the Southern Sea Otter Translocation Program (DSEIS).   The 
public comment deadline has been extended until March 6, 2006.  A 
coalition of groups that are working on drafting comments (Defenders of 
Wildlife, The Ocean Conservancy, Friends of the Sea Otter, Sea Otter 
Defense Initiative, a project of Earth Island Institute's International 
Marine Mammal Project, and The Humane Society of the United States)  
thought it would be good to circulate a letter to get sign-ons for this 
very critical policy issue for southern sea otter recovery.  Currently 
we have 42 signatures and we would love to get, at a minimum 100.  So, 
we at least need 58 more names.  Please let me know (all of my contact 
information is below this letter):  your name, title, affiliation if you 
would like to sign on to this letter.  We thank those of  you who signed 
the letter!  If you would like to sign on, please let me know by 
February 28th (three weeks from today).  If you have any interest in 
reviewing any of the SEIS before agreeing to sign on, please visit:  


Jim Curland, Marine Program Associate
Defenders of Wildlife


February XX, 2006 or March XX, 2006

Diane Noda
Field Supervisor
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office
2493 Portola Road, Suite B
Ventura, California 93003-7726

Dear Diane Noda:

We applaud the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) preferred 
alternative presented in the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact 
Statement (DSEIS) on the translocation of southern sea otters.  The 
DSEIS represents an important and scientifically responsible step toward 
successfully recovering the southern sea otter.  In the final SEIS and 
proposed regulations to implement it, we strongly urge the FWS to 
implement the preferred alternative of terminating the Southern Sea 
Otter translocation program, ending the no-otter management zone south 
of Pt. Conception, and allowing the sea otters currently residing south 
of Pt. Conception, including sea otters residing around San Nicolas 
Island (SNI), to remain.  This action will allow sea otters to move 
freely and naturally expand their range, which will help ensure this 
species' survival and recovery.

Historically, the southern sea otter could be found all along the 
California coast and into Baja California, likely numbering 16,000 in 
the 1800s. Fur traders then killed almost all southern sea otters, with 
only a few dozen surviving in a remote cove off of Big Sur. They were 
declared threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1977, and 
today there are about 2,500 sea otters along our coast. Sea otters are 
the classic example of a keystone species. Sea otters allow for a 
natural check in the nearshore ecosystem by keeping populations of 
invertebrate grazers, such as sea urchins, from overtaking the system 
and denuding the kelp forests. The near-extinction of sea otters along 
the California coast altered the coastal ecosystem; bringing back sea 
otters throughout their range represents a critical step to restoring 
coastal ecosystems--creating healthy kelp forests and diverse 
populations of fish and invertebrate species.

In 1987, the FWS began a translocation program to establish a new colony 
of southern sea otters on SNI in an attempt to protect the species from 
a catastrophic event (e.g. oil spill) and ultimately restore their 
dwindling numbers off the coast of California. Out of the original 140 
sea otters translocated from 1987-1990 to SNI, just over 30 remain at 
the island today.  The others either died or swam away and three years 
after the translocation program ended in 1990, there were fewer than 25 
sea otters at SNI.  While the population at SNI has shown some signs of 
recruitment, it is far from the predicted viable population that FWS 
estimated at between 150-500 sea otters.  

In addition, capturing and transporting sea otters tends to be 
unsuccessful because typically the sea otter is harmed or simply swims 
back to its initial location.  For example, between 1987 and 1993, 24 
sea otters were moved, 4 of those animals died.  Also introducing a new 
sea otter into an already existing group of sea otters may disrupt the 
established social hierarchy of that group.  Because moving sea otters 
places them at risk, the FWS and the Southern Sea Otter Recovery Team 
concluded that moving otters and impeding natural range expansion 
southward is likely to jeopardize the species' continued existence.

The southern sea otter translocation program has failed to meet its 
objective of establishing a viable, independent colony of sea otters to 
serve as a safeguard for the population, as a whole, in the event of a 
natural or human-caused event.  The recovery and management goals for 
southern sea otters cannot be met by continuing the program. Given that 
in the last ten years, the southern sea otter population has exhibited 
periods of growth and decline, and is still listed as threatened under 
the ESA, we are especially pleased to see the FWS recommendation to both 
protect and allow the sea otters currently in the translocation and 
management zones to remain.  Implementation of the preferred alternative 
in the DSEIS will ensure a sustainable sea otter population and will 
allow sea otters to expand their range.  We strongly urge you to 
finalize the SEIS and to implement the preferred alternative


Peter Adam
Graduate Student
University of California, Los Angeles

Christine Alfano
Graduate Student
University of Minnesota

Marci Allen
Birch Aquarium

Homero Aridjiis
Grupo de los Cien Internacional/Mexico

Stefan Austermühle
Executive Director
Asociacion Mundo Azul/Lima, Peru

Sarah Barry, MSc
Marine Team

Melissa Batka
Marine Mammal Education and Research
Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA

Ilana Bismuth, MSc
Faune § Etude/France

Rachel Cartwright
California State University, Channel Islands

Don Croll, PhD
Associate Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of California, Santa Cruz/Center for Ocean Health

Daphna Feingold
Committee Member, Israeli Marine Mammal Research & Assistance Center
Dept. of Marine Civilizations, University of Haifa, Israel

Amanda Harris
Marine Mammal Education and Research
Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA

Jim Harvey, PhD
Moss Landing Marine Laboratories

Kara Johnson
Graduate Student
College of the Atlantic

Caroline Karp
Chair, National Committee on Marine Wildlife and Habitat
Sierra Club

Carol Keiper
Marine Biologist

Dan H Kerem, PhD
Israel Marine Mammal Research & Assistance 
The Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies/The University of Haifa

Tom Kieckhefer
Research Associate
Pacific Cetacean Group

Marcy Kober
Education Curator
The Whale Museum/Friday Harbor, WA

Shawn Larson, PhD
Curator of Animal Health and Research
Seattle Aquarium

Nina Mak
Graduate Student
Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy

Karen Martin, PhD
Professor, Frank R. Seaver Chair of Biology
Pepperdine University/Malibu, CA

Katherine Maze-Foley
Fisheries Biologist III
IAP Worldwide Services/NOAA Fisheries, Pascagoula Laboratory, MS

Katherine McHugh
Graduate Student
University of California, Davis

Thomas Norris
Senior Scientist / Marine Vertebrate Biologist
Science Applications International Corp.

John Ogden, PhD
Professor of Biology
University of  South Florida

Diana Reiss
Senior Research Scientist
New York Aquarium of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Columbia 

Alicia Retes
Museum "Whaler"/Whale Watching
San Diego Natural History Museum

Cynthia Reyes
Stranding Coordinator
California Wildlife Center

Wendy Ritger
Environmental Scientist
TEC, Inc.

Naomi Rose
Marine Mammal Scientist
The Humane Society of the United States

William W. Rossiter
Cetacean Society International

John Sorenson
Ocean Network Communications

Ryan Uulff
Graduate Student
Scripps Institute of Oceanography

Marie-Francoise Van Bressem, DVM, PhD
Head, Cetacean Conservation Medicine Group
Cetacean Conservation Medicine Group (CMED), CEPEC/Germany

Scott Veirs, PhD
Beam Reach Marine Science and Sustainability School

Frank Veit, PhD
International Laboratory for Dolphin Behaviour Research/Israel

Jo Wharam
Project Officer
Durlston Marine Project/UK

Robert Wilson

The Marine Mammal Center

George M. Woodwell, PhD
Director Emeritus
The Woods Hole Research Center

Erika Zollett
Marine Mammal Scientist
Ocean Process and Analysis Laboratory/Institute for the Study of Earth, 
Oceans and Space/University of New Hampshire

Jim Curland, Marine Program Associate
Defenders of Wildlife
P.O. Box 959
Moss Landing, CA. 95039
831-726-9010 (phone)
831-726-9020 (fax)
jcurland at defenders.org

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native wild 
animals and plants in their natural communities. We focus our 
programs on what scientists consider two of the most serious 
environmental threats to the planet: the accelerating rate of 
extinction of species and the associated loss of biological diversity, 
and habitat  alteration and destruction. Long known for our 
leadership on endangered species issues, Defenders of Wildlife also 
advocates new approaches to wildlife conservation that will help 
keep species from becoming endangered. Our programs encourage 
protection of entire ecosystems and interconnected habitats while 
protecting predators that serve as indicator species for ecosystem 


(Defenders' Main Sea Otter Page)
(Defenders' Sea Otter Teaching Unit)
(Defenders' Marine Program Page)
(Defenders' California Marine Program Page)

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