Alaska Sea Otters Gain 5,855 Square Miles of Habitat Protection

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sea otterEnvironmental News Network, Oct 8, 2009 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wednesday designated 5,855 square miles of nearshore waters along the Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea, and Alaska Peninsula as critical habitat for threatened sea otters in southwest Alaska.

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In Canada, the sea otter was considered to be endangered until it was reassessed in 1996 and 2000 and subsequently has been downgraded to special concern in 2007. A species is considered to be of special concern if it "may become threatened or endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats".

Currently the Canadian population of sea otters is estimated to be less than 3500 individuals who have only repopulated 25 to 33% of its historic range since it's reintroduction to British Columbia between 1969 and 1972. Risks from oil spills remain the largest threat to this species.

In May, 2009 the the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations announced that they intend to hunt up to 20 sea otters per year. Reportedly, they successfully lobbied the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to downgrade the legal status of the sea otters from threatened to special concern.