Federal officials are being urged to lift a 24-year-old ban on sea otters in Southern California.
The Santa Cruz Sentinel says most of the people attending a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hearing in Santa Cruz Thursday favored lifting a ban on otters south of the central coast.
The wildlife service is considering ending a ban on otters south of Point Conception in Santa Barbara County and also ending a program that relocated 140 otters from the central coast to a remote island.
Commercial fishermen worry that lifting the ban will interfere with their catch, and will force the industry to follow regulations that were created to protect otters.
The otter was hunted nearly to extinction for its fur before conservation efforts began. Once a small group was discovered, their solution was to colonize the population on San Nicholas Island.
The ban on otters in southern waters was designed to appease commercial fishermen who fear the otters will compete for their catch.
The otter population declined in recent years and fewer than 3,000 remain.