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U.S. Supreme Court upholds protections for sea otters along California coast

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition to restore the “no-otter zone” for sea otter’s in Southern California — a major victory for threatened sea otters along the California coast.

Commercial fishing organizations had challenged U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to terminate the program.

This ruling affirmed two lower court decisions which upheld the Fish and Wildlife Service’ 2012 decision to end the “no-otter zone.” The Ninth Circuit court’s decision is now the last word on this case, putting an end to years of litigation.

Otters can now populate their entire historic range along the California coast.

Otters are an endangered species and protected by the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.

The Court said the “no-otter zone” could harm and threaten the endangered species and did not make sense to keep it.

Vice President of the Morro Bay Commercial Fisherman Organization, Jeremiah O’Brien, agrees that the decision to move the otters in the first place was a bad one.

“It didn’t come out until the end how many they really had killed. And in fact, it was not a success it was a dismal failure, and it was going to be a failure from the start. They should have known that,” said O’Brien.

Congress established the “no-otter zone” in 1986 as part of a plan to relocate sea otters to San Nicolas Island to establish a thriving otter population there, and in exchange to satisfy the fishing industry’s complaints that otter’s interfered with their fishing activities, excluding otters from an area extending from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the Mexican border.

At the time, the agency suggested the relocation program would help protect the threatened species. But many of the relocated otters died as the result of being captured or transported.

Many opponents of the “no-otter zone” felt that fishing groups are seeking to serve their own commercial interests.

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