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Friends of the Sea Otter
protect the sea otter
about friends of the sea otter

A Little History
The story on the re-discovery of California's sea otter is well-documented. In 1938 a group of otters were spotted near Bixby Bridge along the Big Sur coast. This sighting confirmed that California's otter was, indeed, still in existence.

That was 57 years ago. For almost half of that time Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO) has worked to protect the sea otter and its habitat from a wide range of threats. And it is in large part due to FSO's efforts that the California (southern) sea otter population has grown.

In 1968 when Margaret Owings, a well respected conservationist, and Dr. Jim Mattison, an avid outdoorsman, founded FSO, the southern sea otter population numbered about 650. Since that time, the population has grown in number and range and includes about 2,300 otters along the central California coastline.

When FSO first began, it was operated solely on a volunteer basis; many times meetings were held at Owings' home and it was through her sheer force of will that the organization continued.
She helped establish environmental policy to benefit the otter; she spoke to legislators both in Sacramento and Washington D.C.; and she used her insight and knowledge to rally scientists, conservationists, educators, and friends to embrace FSO's mission.
Dr. Jim Mattison

Mattison marched along with her at every step, albeit with a different focus. He utilized his considerable medical knowledge to help in the biological research of otters; and he turned his scuba diving hobby into a treasure trove of pictures, information, and data - all about otters - for FSO. He helped develop a curriculum for teachers, produced a film about otters, and was instrumental in establishing FSO as an otter and otter habitat resource organization.

The success of FSO is well-known in the environmental community. As the only advocacy organization for sea otters in the world, FSO has become a voice to be reckoned with in the fight to protect our marine communities.

Margaret Owings

In 1993, FSO reassessed its focus and changed its mission statement to include not just protection of the southern sea otter, but sea otters throughout their north Pacific range, and all sea otter habitat.

In 2006, FSO was forced to refocus as the burden of a full staff, office & retail store became more than the organization could bear.  FSO returned to a largely volunteer effort through 2007, and has refocused it's time and energy to the advocacy of sea otters at the state and federal levels.
A Success Story - FSO Accomplishments
Currently, Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO) has more than 4,000 members world-wide. As the nucleus of the organization, they enable us to accomplish the many programs and activities necessary to protect the otter and its habitat. Through their membership dues and contributions we are one step closer to ensuring that otters throughout their range never face the the threat of extinction again. Click to view.
FSO Strategy

FSO is constantly working towards securing the passage of the Southern Sea Otter Research and Recovery Act--FSO has played a leadership role in revising the Southern Sea Otter Research and Recovery Act. Congressman Sam Farr introduced the revised legislation early in the 111th Congress. The newly drafted legislation has been developed with Committee staff by a broad coalition of stakeholders and is widely supported.  In February, FSO, alongside multiple other otter advocacy groups signed onto a letter of support of the bill.

In February FSO provided Comments on the Proposed Critical Habitat Designation for the Northern Sea Otter drafted in collaboration with other stakeholders--The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has proposed an area for critical habitat for the Northern sea otter.  FSO will work with its environmental and research partners to provide comments on the proposed designation and to track its progress until a final determination is made.

FSO will provide Comments on the Northern Sea Otter Recovery Plan--Within the next six months FWS will publish its draft recovery plan for the northern sea otter. FSO will work with its environmental and research partners to provide comments on the proposed recovery plan.
Southern Sea Otter Research and Recovery Act
Photo credit: mikebaird, flickr

Tracking Any Legislative Action on the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.--The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are the two preeminent pieces of legislation to conserve, protect, and recovery sea otters.

Under the Bush Administration, regulations undermining the ESA were adopted. It is likely that in the 111th Congress, actions will be taken to restore the protections of the ESA. This Congress may also take steps to reauthorize both Acts. If that is the case, FSO must work to ensure that current provisions that protect sea otters are preserved and strengthened.

Endangered Species
Photo credit: mikebaird, flickr
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