Wednesday June 21, 2023

Oregon Capital Chronicle

Federal officials want Oregonians and Californians to weigh in on the potential return of threatened sea otters to their historic home. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is holding eight open houses along the Oregon Coast this week to share a proposal for reintroducing southern sea otters — one of three subspecies of sea otter — to the Pacific Coast from San Francisco and up through northern Oregon.

The otters have been mostly absent for more than a century, and Oregon is the only state on the Pacific Coast that has no southern sea otters, according to a news release from the federal agency.

The otters are a keystone species, meaning many other marine species largely depend on them, and their absence has myriad effects especially on kelp and seagrass forests and species that depend on those oceanic forests. The otters eat sea urchins that attack kelp.

The otter has been listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act since 1977. They were nearly hunted to extinction for their fur throughout the 1700s and 1800s.

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