CONTACT: Cindy Lowry, Sea Otter Defense Initiative (207) 622-3587U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to List the Southwestern Alaska Sea Otters Under the Endangered Species ActMove Follows Petition from Sea Otter Defense Initiative, supported by Defenders of Wildlife
Jim Curland, Defenders of Wildlife (831) 726-9010
Portland, ME and Monterey, CA. - Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) submitted its final rulemaking that lists the Southwestern Alaska Stock of Northern Sea Otters as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as requested in a petition filed by the Sea Otter Defense Initiative (SODI) on January 11, 2002. In doing so, SODI and Defenders of Wildlife believe the Service is taking an important step forward to head off the possible extinction of this sea otter population, which has experienced a drastic rate of decline. In a little over two decades, the population has declined from an estimated high of 127,000 to an all time low of 41,474, according to FWS.
The SODI ESA petition recognized the distinct status of this population from other sea otters in Alaska. SODI and Defenders have worked cooperatively with the Fish and Wildlife Service since filing that petition to provide additional information and encourage this action.
SODI's Director, Cindy Lowry, praised FWS's action: "This population of sea otters has shown one of the most dramatic and serious declines of any species to be considered for listing under the ESA. Hopefully, listing this sea otter population will bring into play the kind of research and protective measures necessary to reverse this decline or bring about the recovery of what was once a healthy and thriving population."
Jim Curland, Marine Program Associate, Defenders of Wildlife, noted the important role that sea otters play for the entire marine ecosystem. "This listing decision is not only about protecting sea otters, as important as that is. Instead, it is an action that signals our commitment to the protection of the marine environment. Sea otters are well known to be a "keystone species," in the oceans, one that helps kelp forests thrive and supports the overall health of the marine environment by promoting biological diversity. Without sea otters, the ecosystems of these islands in Alaska will face daunting challenges."
SODI and Defenders of Wildlife announced their intention to continue to work directly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure prompt establishment of a Recovery Team and Recovery Plan process.
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The Sea Otter Defense Initiative is a project under the Earth Island Institute. The organization based in California is dedicated to removing obstacles to range expansion and full sea otter recovery through public education and media/grassroots campaigns. Earth Island Institute is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to protecting the diversity of life on Earth. Please vist www.earthisland.org
Defenders of Wildlife is a leading non-profit conservation organization recognized as one of the nation’s most progressive advocates for wildlife and its habitat. With more than 475,000 members and supporters – 100,000 of which are in California – Defenders of Wildlife is an effective leader on endangered species issues. To stay current on hot topics in wildlife conservation, please visit www.defenders.org.