Santa Barbara- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is officially ending the Southern Sea Otter Translocation Program, giving the species free reign to inhabit Southern California waters. Sea otters are now legally free to float south of Point Conception without the threat of being trapped and deported to Northern California.The “No Otter Zone” began in 1987, when 140 southern sea otters were moved to San Nicolas Island, in an attempt to establish a reserve population, and to protect the species from a catastrophic event, such as an oil spill. While the relocation plan failed, the “no otter zone” remained in place for years, until now. Local Environmental Scientist, Natasha Lohmus says this is a good move. She says It will help the otters regain their original historic area, that they’ve evolved in. But local underwater fisherman, and a pioneer in the world of diving, Lad Handelman, says opening the gate for otters to roam South of Point Conception is tragic. Handelman is concerned about the more than 2000 natural oil seeps in the region. He says the largest danger to this threatened species is for a sea otter’s fur to get covered with oil. Having no insulation except for their fur, the otter will soon die. Other concerns surround the shellfish industry. This same region is lush with lobsters, crabs, scallops, which the otter feeds on. Some say it could impact our resources, and revenue.KEY News Reporter Shirin Rajaee has our full report.
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