Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) once swam along the coast of California from the cold waters of the North Coast all the way to Baja California, but 18th- and 19th-century fur trappers nearly caused the species to go extinct. Statewide, only one remnant population of approximately fifty individuals was left in Big Sur by the 1930s.
Today nearly 100 years later, thanks to concerted efforts, more than 3,000 sea otters call California home from that small initial remaining population. While recovery efforts have increased the overall population, sea otters are still only narrowly distributed in California, roughly from Santa Cruz to Point Conception, relative to their historic range.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has studied the feasibility of sea otter reintroduction efforts and is hosting open houses across the North Coast to discuss potential reintroduction. We hope to see you at one!
Crescent City - June 24, 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM, Del Norte Recreation Department, Gymnasium 1005 H St., Crescent City, CA 95531
Arcata - June 25, 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM, Cal Poly Humboldt, College Creek Complex, Great Hall Community Center Building, Room 260, 1 Rossow St., Arcata, CA 95521
Fort Bragg - June 26, 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM, Noyo Center for Marine Science, Discovery Center 338 N Main St., Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Bodega Bay - June 27, 11:00 AM – 1:30 PM, Bodega Bay Community Center 2255 CA-1, Bodega Bay, CA, 94923
Point Reyes Station - June 27, 5:00 PM– 7:30 PM, Point Reyes National Seashore, Bear Valley Visitor Center, Red Barn Classroom 75 Bear Valley Rd., Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Sausalito - June 28, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM, Bay Model Visitor Center, Gallery 2100 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965
San Francisco - June 28, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM, San Francisco County Fair Building, Auditorium 1199 9th Ave., San Francisco, CA 94122
Emeryville - June 29, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Emeryville Senior Center, Main Hall 4321 Salem St., Emeryville, CA 94608
EPIC is excited about the potential for sea otter reintroduction because of the prominent role that sea otters play in maintaining healthy kelp forests by controlling urchin populations. Kelp forests are essential for many species and will help our oceans mitigate the worst impacts from climate change. Whether reintroduction is feasible for the North Coast, or whether this area is prioritized for reintroduction versus other areas of California, is unclear at the moment as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has yet to announce their plans. Nevertheless, we are hopeful that someday soon we will be able to watch sea otters once again frolic along the North Coast.
If you’re able, please attend an open house in your area hosted by the USFWS regarding sea otters this coming week.