Anglers Urged to "Go Slow in Elkhorn Slough" for Sea Otters as Salmon Season Re-Opens

Mar 29, 2016

Categories:
Aquarium News

Remember the incredible wild sea otter pup birth that took place in the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s outdoor tide pool earlier this month? As salmon season opens, speeding boats could put threatened marine mammals like that sea otter pup and its mother in harm’s way.

Anglers will be in a hurry to head out into Monterey Bay early on Saturday, April 2, when the 2016 recreational salmon season opens. But with large numbers of sea otters living in the Moss Landing area, wildlife experts are concerned about accidental deaths of otters caused by boats speeding out to sea.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, Moss Landing Harbor District, Friends of the Sea Otter and other local organizations ask recreational anglers and boaters to safeguard sea otters and other marine mammals and birds by slowing down in and around Elkhorn Slough and Moss Landing Harbor.

The slough is a designated no-wake zone, with a posted speed limit of 4 knots, or about 5 miles per hour. Linda G. McIntyre, general manager/harbormaster of the Moss Landing Harbor District, said she and her staff will be out on opening day to ensure compliance.

“The Marine Mammal Protection Act protects sea otters and other marine mammals, and prohibits people from killing and harassing these animals. Wildlife experts realize that most boaters have no wish to harm sea otters but know that inadvertent boat strikes occasionally do occur,” said McIntyre.

According to Andrew Johnson, the aquarium’s Sea Otter Program manager, about 40 sea otters have died from boat strikes over the past decade in California – many in the coastal waters between Moss Landing and Santa Cruz, including four in the Monterey Bay area in 2015. The sea otters in the harbor and slough form part of a research population that aquarium staff and other local biologists have been studying for years. Data from those ongoing research studies have provided information that could be important to the survival of this threatened species.

Frank Reynolds, programs and development director for Friends of the Sea Otter, said sea otter deaths from boat strikes – while unintentional – are easily preventable through increased boater attentiveness and by practicing safe boating.

“Sea otters face a number of threats, including pollution, disease, oil spills and entanglement in fishing gear,” Reynolds said. “Addressing these threats isn’t always easy. But the solution to boat strikes is simple: boaters need to keep an eye out and slow down for sea otters and other marine mammals whenever they’re in sea otter habitat like Elkhorn Slough and Moss Landing Harbor.”

Gena Bentall is a wildlife biologist and coordinator for a new program called Be Sea Otter Savvy. “When the harbor is busy, resting sea otters may be subjected to repeated disturbance, causing them to swim away or dive to avoid watercraft,” said Bentall. “This chronic disturbance can waste energy in otters, something that is particularly critical for mothers raising pups. By passing parallel to the otters at a reasonable distance and avoiding direct approaches, most boaters can prevent disturbance to resting rafts of otters.”

In addition to the slough and harbor, boaters should look for sea otters when traveling at high speed just outside harbors and around kelp beds or other areas where sea otters may be present.

Recreational salmon season opens Saturday, April 2, and runs until April 30. The Pacific Fishery Management Council and the California Fish and Game Commission will decide on regulations and restrictions that may come into in effect on or after May 1.

Californians can help support recovery of threatened sea otters, an iconic species along the Central Coast, by contributing to the California Sea Otter Fund, Code 410 on their state income tax form. Taxpayers can contribute as much as they wish to the fund to support sea otter conservation. In nearly 8 years the Fund has raised just over $2.4 million for sea otter research, education and conservation efforts.

Friends of the Sea Otter is committed to and advocates for the conservation of sea otters and the preservation of their habitat through education, research, and policy decisions that will ensure the long-term survival of this species.

Be Sea Otter Savvy is committed to creating awareness about sea otter behavior and conservation, and sharing guidelines for responsible boating when near them, so both otters and humans can safely enjoy our coastal waters. Respect the nap!

What can you do to help? Spread the word on social media, or on your website!

The mission of the Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean.

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Other Media Contacts

Friends of the Sea Otter: Frank Reynolds, (831) 915-3275; freynolds@seaotters.org
Be Sea Otter Savvy: Gena Bentall, gena@bseaottersavvy.com
Moss Landing Harbor District: Linda G. McIntyre, (831) 633-5417; mcintyre@mosslandingharbor.dst.ca.us

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The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean.