Investigators: Dominique Kone, Dr. Leigh Torres, Dr. Flaxen Conway

Sea otters were once abundant along the entire west coast of the United States, including Oregon - according to historical hunting records, tribal archives, and archaeological findings. However, due to unsustainable and intense hunting pressure from fur traders, sea otters were pronounced locally extinct in the early 1900’s. Previous translocation efforts attempted to reestablish a resident population in Oregon, with no success. Since then, Oregon has remained devoid of these once native species, which have well-documented impacts on the ecology and structure of nearshore ecosystems.

With renewed interest from scientists, managers, and tribes, the GEMM Lab is revisiting the potential to bring this species back to Oregon. Our project will objectively look at the past and current state of the issue to assess the ecological, cultural, and economic effects of years of sea otter absence. Furthermore, we will give consideration to future ecological, economic, and management implications of a potential reintroduction and how this effort could advance regional and local conservation efforts of sea otters. The first piece of this work will be conducted by GEMM Lab graduate student, Dom Kone. As part of his master’s thesis, Dom will assess ecological feasibility by identifying suitable sea otter habitat and determining potential impacts of sea otter predation along the Oregon coast.

Further information related to this project:

GEMM Lab Blog on Sea Otter Reintroduction

The Oregon History Project

Monterey Bay Aquarium: Southern Sea Otter

Seattle Aquarium: Sea Otter Fact Sheet

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Marine Mammals Management

Collaborators:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians

Elakha Alliance

Sea otters were once abundant along the entire west coast of the United States, including Oregon - according to historical hunting records, tribal archives, and archaeological findings. However, due to unsustainable and intense hunting pressure from fur traders, sea otters were pronounced locally extinct in the early 1900’s.