Time to Help Sea Otters Again when Filing your Taxes in California

Time to Help Sea Otters Again when Filing your Taxes in California

Time to Help Sea Otters Again when Filing your Taxes in California

It’s that time of the year…Tax Season. While sea otters don’t pay taxes, we can help them when we pay ours.  Since 2007, sea otters in California have benefited from nearly $2.4 million in taxpayer contributions that go towards efforts to protect and recover sea otters in California. This funding is critical because it is currently a critical  funding source for sea otter research, education and conservation efforts in California.

Each year the California Franchise Tax Board sets a minimum amount needed for each check off to meet in order for the Fund to appear on tax forms in the following year. This year the California Sea Otter Fund needs to reach $283,775.

Please help sea otters in California during this tax season. They are dependent on any contribution you can make.  Just seek out line 410 on your California Tax income form and give as little as $1.

Tax Time to Help Sea Otters Again when Filing your Taxes in California

You can find out more information on the California Sea Otter Fund and how the money has been used in the past by clicking here.  Spread the word to your California tax-paying friends that they can help sea otters too.  Thanks!



FSO’s 2015 Hero Series: Don Baur

FSO’s 2015 Hero Series: Don Baur

FSO’s 2015 Hero Series

A Behind the Scenes Look at the Individuals Dedicated to the Cause

Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO) is the only organization in the world dedicated to the protection of sea otters on a global scale.  We do this through effective advocacy, litigation, public education, and the development of strong alliances and partnerships.  We are committed to protecting this threatened species wherever sea otters are found worldwide.  Why?  Because the health of the nearshore coastal ecosystem is dependent upon their survival.  The sea otter is a keystone species, meaning what happens to the sea otter, happens to the ecosystem. It is our duty to protect this marine mammal.  But who exactly is behind the scenes fighting for this keystone species?  Meet Friends of the Sea Otter’s feature Hero of 2015: Don Baur.

 Don Baur FSOs 2015 Hero Series: Don Baur

Ranked as one of  “America’s Leading Environmental Lawyers” and a partner at the law firm of Perkins Coie, LLP, Don Baur is an integral part of Friends of the Sea Otter’s success.  Close friends with FSO founder, Margaret Owings, Mr. Baur has been advocating for sea otters for over 30 years.  One of his most recent and celebrated successes representing FSO is the removal of the 20+ year No Otter Zone that prohibited the free movement of sea otters throughout their natural habitat in Southern California.  Don helped spearhead the removal of this impediment to sea otter recovery, a critical decision that will help the threatened species expand its range over time.

It’s no coincidence that Don headlines the FSO Hero Series.  Without his guidance, passionate approach, and legal expertise, FSO would not have garnered the triumphant successes that it has had over the past three decades.  Don’s input and dedication to protecting the natural environment are instrumental in the success of the organization.  His expertise includes extensive experience in all relevant federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, and coastal/ocean and public land laws.  Previously an attorney for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and General Counsel of the Marine Mammal Commission, Don’s efforts on ocean conservation include his service on the Board of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, his position as a professor of Ocean Law at the Vermont Law School for the last two decades, and as the lead editor and author of legal treatises on both endangered species and ocean law.

Thanks in part to the expertise, leadership, and experience of Don Baur, ocean enthusiasts and sea otter lovers alike can be confident that no rock will be left unturned to ensure protection for these threatened animals.  Don Baur states,  “The fact that the sea otter species has been able to fight off extinction is due, in no small measure, to the extraordinarily effective conservation program mounted by FSO.  This species still remains at great risk, however, and FSO and its supporters have major challenges ahead.  The recovery of this species will depend on sustained advocacy for the foreseeable future.”  Where there are legal challenges regarding the protection of sea otters, you can be sure that FSO will be there to confront them.

Sea Otter Three-Part Series in the Santa Cruz Sentinel

Sea Otter Three-Part Series in the Santa Cruz Sentinel

Dan Haifley, Executive Director of O’Neil Sea Odyssey, writes a column for the Santa Cruz Sentinel called Our Ocean Backyard.  Beginning on October 25, 2014 a special 3-part series on sea otters is being published as part of this column.  The next parts of the sea otter series appear on November 8th and November 22nd.

In the first part, Dan looks at sea otters and their role as “kelp managers”, keystone species, their population history in California, their current range and population status, and other facts and important points about the sea otter.

In part two, Dan explores the natural history and various daily behaviors of the charismatic, vitally important sea otter.  And, at the end of part two he includes the theory of Dr. Tim Tinker as to why the population growth trend has “stalled”.

The series wraps up on November 22nd examining the history of a very controversial program that began in the late 1980s known as the “No-Otter Zone”. The original intention of this program is to protect the population from a catastrophic event by moving a group of sea otters to one of the Channel Islands, San Nicolas Island.  This relocation or translocation of sea otters had the hope that if there were some large-scale impact that could threaten the entire population in California, there would be a population safely tucked away from the mainland.

The program that created a “No-Otter Zone” in southern California was fraught with problems, unexpected consequences, and a general failure to meet certain goals in protecting the sea otter population.

Friends of the Sea Otter has been a lead organization in trying to eliminate the “No-Otter Zone” in the nearly 3 decades since its creation coinciding with the translocation program to move sea otters to San Nicolas Island.  During that period, some of the controversy has taken place in court, where it currently resides awaiting an appeal by a segment of the fishing community who does not agree with a January 2013 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to eliminate the “No-Otter Zone” once and for all.  Friends of the Sea Otter and our colleague organizations, represented by EarthJustice, are involved in defending U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s decision in court.

We’ll continue to keep our members, supporters and the sea otter fans apprised to what is going on.  Stay tuned.

The 12th Annual Sea Otter Awareness Week Focuses on One of the World’s Most Endearing Animals

The 12th Annual Sea Otter Awareness Week Focuses on One of the World’s Most Endearing Animals

As we make our way to the 12th annual Sea Otter Awareness Week and the various events and activities set up around the country and internationally, we reflect on the positive events in the realm of sea otter recovery and protection. We also want to bring to attention to the continued causes of concern in protecting this magnificent animal.


In a couple of weeks the U.S. Geological Survey will release the results of the Spring 2014 California sea otter census.  Last year, the news was encouraging, giving us some hope about the future recovery of this population.  The 3-year average (population index) in 2013 was listed as 2,941 sea otters.  This was an increase in the average from the previous year’s population index. As we eagerly await the results for 2014, we realize that there is still much work to be done.


We’re still struggling to understand how disease, shark attacks, food limitations and other threats have kept this charismatic marine mammal on the brink over the last three and a half decades.


The saga regarding the legal battles to eliminate the No Otter Zone in Southern California continues.  The No Otter Zone is an impediment to sea otter recovery. For decades Friends of the Sea Otter and others have fought to rid the California coastline of this road block that is impeding sea otters from returning to historic habitat in Southern California.  A coalition of fishing groups, represented by Pacific Legal Foundation, filed a lawsuit last year against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the lawsuit aims to uphold the decades old No-Otter Zone. Their lawsuit challenges the elimination of the No-Otter Zone that was finalized in January of 2013 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Friends of the Sea Otter along with colleague organizations, all represented by Earthjustice, filed a motion to intervene on the lawsuit on August 12, 2013. This was granted on October 2, 2013.  On October 23, 2013, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked the court to throw out the case based on the theory that the fishing groups were challenging the 1987 regulation that set up the No Otter Zone in the first place, and the legal time period for filing such a challenge has passed.   On March 27, 2014, the court ruled in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s favor and dismissed the case.  The fishing groups appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  If the Ninth Circuit rules in the fishing industry’s favor, the case will be sent back to the district court to decide the central issue of whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had the authority to end the No Otter Zone.  We are tracking the situation while we wait for the Ninth Circuit decision and stand ready to fight, along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to ensure that the government is not forced to revive the failed No Otter Zone and translocation program.


Friends of the Sea Otter continues to monitor the battle up north. The state of Alaska, its fishing industry, and elected officials have been trying to turn back the clock on marine mammal conservation more than 40 years by advocating for the management of sea otters. How are they suggesting they do this? Their answer: by killing sea otters for the sake of small commercial interest groups.


All sea otters are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). This makes it illegal to hunt a sea otter or sell any products made from the body of a sea otter, Native Alaskans are permitted to do so, however. In this case, they must sufficiently alter a sea otter pelt into some kind of traditional artifact or handicraft before selling anything made from a sea otter. It is currently illegal for anyone, including Alaskan Natives, to sell unaltered sea otter pelts to non-Alaskan Natives.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had a proposal last year to clarify some terms under the MMPA and Friends of the Sea Otter is focusing on their clarification of “significantly altered”. The proposed revised definition for “significantly altered” raised some serious concerns.  The definition of “significantly altered” is too broad and at odds with the MMPA and is being conducted without any environmental impact analysis. It isn’t as restrictive as it needs to be and could potentially result in blankets and rugs being made from sea otter pelts without “significantly altering” the pelt as is the intention of the MMPA. This would be devastating for sea otters and increase the market for their pelts.


While U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared in their final documents last year that this exercise of clarifying definitions is in no way a means to allow predator control of sea otter populations in Southeast Alaska, Friends of the Sea Otter is monitoring this closely.  Through a grant we are planning some outreach to native communities, hunters, fishers, and others to remind them about the laws that exist and that sea otters can not be hunted as a means to ease conflicts with fisheries.


With all of these emerging issues, it is even more important to highlight the need to protect and conserve sea otter populations. Sea Otter Awareness Week once again shines the big spotlight on the need for everyone to understand the plight of this species and help where you can.


Friends of the Sea Otter has been doing our part in sea otter conservation and recovery for 46 years and we need everyone to be a part of this effort to help protect this remarkable species and allow for many future generations to be able to view and know that there is a healthy and thriving population of sea otters wherever they are found worldwide.


You can follow FSO on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/friendsoftheseaotter ) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/#!/friendsseaotter ) and learn more about what FSO is doing and how you can help at http://www.seaotters.org .

Why Friends of the Sea Otter Matters

Why Friends of the Sea Otter Matters

We can all be taken in by the sea otter’s charm and believe they should exist for pure delight, however there is so much more at stake.

Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO) actively defends challenges to sea otter rights, not just for Sea Otters and their habitat, but for all inhabitants of our living, breathing planet.  FSO begins by supporting a species whose presence is critical to the ecosystem – without whose existence would mean the undoing of kelp forests and its vital contribution to other ocean living organisms. Maintaining and promoting ocean life, in turn promotes environmental health for all of us and for those who follow.  Sea otters are a critical element in keeping our oceans and coastal environments healthy.

Efren Adalem 2 Sea Otter Goose neck barnacles Why Friends of the Sea Otter Matters

Friends of the Sea Otter protects the potential demise of this amazing mammal from people’s often short sighted actions which can be self motivated and/or unintended. The sea otter’s existence is under constant assault from groups whose intent disregards the long-term impact on sea otter populations and ignores detrimental consequences to the environment; sea otter extinction would spur the dismantling of the ecosystem.

Research identifies many reasons for sea otter mortality but no matter what is creating static sea otter populations, sea otter’s rights will always be challenged by proposed legislation that seeks to lessen the protections promised by the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. FSO’s advocacy, education and research mission benefits sea otters, their habitat and the protection and preservation of our magnificent oceans and coastal environments.

Help us by contributing in any way possible to FSO’s mission: raise awareness of environmental factors, communicate our mission, and stand with us to protect and preserve our natural resources and please donate today so we can continue our mission.

“The effort shall and must go on, though the task will never be ended, we must engage in it with patience that refuses to be turned aside, with determination to overcome obstacles, and with pride that it is our privilege to contribute.”

Rachel Carson – biologist, environmentalist, conservationist, author and friend speaking on environmental protection

Attacks on our Wildlife: Heinous Crimes Warrant Our Attention

Attacks on our Wildlife: Heinous Crimes Warrant Our Attention

There are very few things more heinous than acts of cruelty against animals.  This surfaces from time to time in killing of sea otters. Unfortunately, throughout the years we have had to deal with news about sea otters shot and left for dead. Some are killed and wash up on shore and others are left disfigured or maimed.  These crimes against sea otters and other wildlife are horrific and incomprehensible.

Federal and State laws have come into existence to prevent man from destroying the fragile balance in the ecosystem by superimposing his perceived “right” to all environmental resources without consideration to the devastating effects of eliminating a plant or animal species.  Not only is it illegal to harm animals protected under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act, but it is our obligation to enforce these protections. Over the years, a number of organizations, including Friends of the Sea Otter, have together raised money as rewards to aid in bringing the perpetrator(s) to justice.

In September 2013, three sea otters were found shot to death at Asilomar Beach along the Monterey Peninsula. This is a very horrific crime and the first time since we can remember that multiple sea otters were found killed at the same time.  Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO) has joined other conservation organizations, a concerned citizen, a wildlife health center and a state wildlife agency to collectively offer a reward, which now sits at $21,000.  We are hoping that this is enough of an incentive for someone to come forward to provide information to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would lead to an arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for this heinous crime.  A successful prosecution could result in up to $100,000 in fines and jail time.  FSO has established a reward fund to help with this reward and any future situations that necessitate posting a reward.  You can contribute at:  http://www.razoo.com/story/Attacks-On-Our-Wildlife-Reward-Fund-For-Crimes-Against-Sea-Otters

In another case, just North of Monterey, Walter, a sea otter found riddled with shotgun pellets, was rescued on October 18, 2013 after members of the public reported seeing a lethargic and uncharacteristically approachable sea otter on the shoreline of Tofino, British Columbia.  Walter was immediately brought to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre and underwent extensive treatment and rehabilitation at the Centre for the next 11 weeks.  While the treatments and surgeries have gone well, the injuries have left Walter blind and thus unable to be reintroduced into the wild.  Walter has limited mobility, hindering his ability to forage for food.  Luckily Walter has been relocated to the Vancouver Aquarium and will spend the rest of his life cared for in a comfortable and safe setting.  FSO is willing and able to work with any Canadian agencies and organizations that are seeking to find the perpetrator of this crime.  We have publicized our efforts widely and will continue do to so.