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Welcome Back, Otter! Ban On Otters Lifted in SoCal

(Photo by TheRocky41 via Shutterstock)
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Otters are once again allowed to swim freely in the waters of Southern California once again.

Twenty-five years ago otter were banned from swimming in Southern California below Point Conception in Santa Barbara County—with the exception of a colony at San Nicolas Island. Any stray otters were actually transported back up to waters in Northern California. You can guess how well that worked out. Otters continued to stray from San Nicolas and others wandered South.

Steve Shimek, executive director of The Otter Project told the Santa Cruz Sentinel, "Trying to tell a marine mammal to stay on one side of an imaginary line across the water was a dumb idea."

But for years commercial fishers, oil interests and the Navy objected to any plans to bring otters back south where they could compete for resources or get in the way of offshore development. In 2001, the federal government announced that they wouldn't enforce the ban, but otters still weren't protected if they drift south. Two groups sued the federal government to lift the ban completely, arguing that it was necessary for the species to recover.

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Shimek told the Sentinel the change in policy "will not only protect sea otters from harm, but because of the otters' critical role in the environment, it will also help restore our local ocean ecosystem."

(h/t Curbed LA)