Through important protections, Alaska's curious and charming sea otters are finally on the path to recovery after being pushed to the brink of extinction after over-hunting. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Alaska Native hunters alone are allowed to kill sea otters -- and they can only do so to create "authentic native handicrafts."
Unfortunately those protections could be weakened if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collapses under the greedy pressures of the commercial fishing industry -- rules may be expanded to include nearly unaltered sea otter pelts under the "handicrafts" definition.
Sea otters play an important role in Alaska's coastal ecosystems by encouraging the growth of kelp beds, which serve as nurseries for fish and create important carbon dioxide sinks. But sea otters also eat some species that are targeted by commercial fishers, which is why the fishing industry is pushing to control sea otter populations.
Sea otter populations in some parts of Alaska appear to be increasing -- though there are still nowhere near as many of the animals as there used to be -- but otters in southwest Alaska are not recovering. They've been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Service's new rule doesn't have this distinction; it would apply to all sea otters -- even those listed as threatened.
Please take action now to tell the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect Alaska's sea otters.
May 7, 2013 Action Alert ID# 93
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