Southern California environment news and trends

Southern California’s ‘no otter’ zone on the brink of elimination

Michael "Mike" L. Baird/Flickr

It was announced last week that the California Coastal Commission has confirmed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s latest proposal to end the 1987 “no otter” zone program is good and in line with protection policies of the California Coastal Act. The Commission’s approval is the latest step in repealing the unsuccessful “otter translocation program” that barred southern sea otters from California waters south of Point Conception outside of a very specific location.

“The original purpose of the ruling was to protect the otters after they were deemed an endangered species, so there were good intentions,” explained Brian Segee, staff attorney with the Environmental Defense Center, when reached by telephone. “But as the translocation program moved forward, it was an obvious failure.”

The program had been designed to repopulate Southern California waters with sea otters translocated from the Central Coast, the caveat being they remain confined to San Nicolas Island and the surrounding area. The rest of the Southern California coast was deemed the aforementioned “no otter" zone. It didn’t work.