DOI Proposes Adding Sea Otters to Endangered Species List

The U.S. Department of the Interior yesterday proposed adding southwest Alaska’s sea otters to the government’s threatened species list, which would offer them protections under the Endangered Species Act. The sea otter population in southwest Alaska was robust as late as 1980, but since then has dropped precipitously, a decline of almost 60 percent that scientists are at a loss to explain (oddly, Alaska’s south-central and southeastern otter populations are thriving). The proposal follows a 2000 petition for such a listing by the Center for Biological Diversity and a lawsuit last December by two animal-welfare groups attempting to force the DOI’s hand. Said newly concerned Interior Secretary Gale Norton, “listing this population as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act will be an important step in discovering the reasons and reversing the decline.”