Concerning Jason Lutterman’s article, “Sea Otters in Crosshairs of Gallegly Bill,” it might help if Mr. Lutterman were to study up on the history of the No-Otter/Management Zone and his organization’s participation in creating it.
In 1984 and 1985, I was a witness before a House of Representatives subcommittee, appearing on the then-proposed sea otter translocation to San Nicolas Island (SNI), Ventura County. I sat next to a representative of Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO), a regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the science director for the Marine Mammal Commission (MMC).
The proposal to capture sea otters and move them had been identified as an illegal act by the Interior Department, Office of the Solicitor. It was a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Friends of the Sea Otter and the Fish and Wildlife Service were so determined to produce their “experiment” they were willing to agree to anything. The rules as published in the Federal Register included containing sea otters to San Nicolas Island. The arrangement was a compromise. It is codified in federal law, Public Law 99-625.
Now, Mr. Lutterman may not like this law. Friends of the Sea Otter and Fish and Wildlife Service may not like the law, but this is still the law. The State of California was forced into accepting this law, as were coastal cities, counties, and commercial and recreational fishermen.
The Fish and Wildlife Service exempted themselves from obeying this law 20 years ago. Friends of the Sea Otter has been the cheerleader for the lawbreaking.
Fishermen did not like this law, but were forced to obey it. Federal study demonstrated in 1984 that the region south of Point Conception – including SNI – was unsuitable for sea otters. Pollution of the marine waters and conflicts with fisheries were identified in the Dobbins Mapping Study. The Channel Islands are valuable fishing grounds.
Mr. Lutterman tries to make a case for sea otters as tourist attractions. Well, tourists also visit coastal communities for the boats, the harbors, and the fresh seafood. Fishing also provides jobs: Processing of fish products, distribution, chandlers, boat builders, dive equipment suppliers, and recreational opportunities. Mr. Lutterman obviously does not care about this infrastructure and the employment and taxes paid to communities and state.
What Congress did in 1987 was to create a “zonal management” structure that would preserve sea otters and conserve fisheries. But Friends of the Sea Otter has gone against this arrangement. They and other environmental non-government organizations (ENGO) have decided which animals in the ecosystem are most important. They play God with our resources. The downside is that we as a society lose. We have lost many valuable fisheries and the coastal communities have suffered great financial loss. The worst part of this is we have traded fisheries for a population of sickly marine mammals which have overshot their food supply. Friends of the Sea Otter and others want to destroy even more fishing grounds, but this time in violation of a federal law they helped to create.