As Salmon Season Re-Opens, Anglers Urged to 'Go Slow in Elkhorn Slough' for Sea Otters

Speeding boats could put threatened marine mammals in harm's way

Apr 02, 2015

Conservation & Science
Aquarium News

Anglers will be in a hurry to head out into Monterey Bay early on Saturday, April 4, when the 2015 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 struck 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. As in past years, volunteers with the aquarium, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and other organizations will work together that weekend to talk to anglers before they launch and caution boaters to slow down.

“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, 35 sea otters have died from boat strikes over the past decade in California – many in the coastal waters between Moss Landing and Santa Cruz. 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.

Jim Curland, advocacy program 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,” Curland 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.”  

Recreational salmon season opens Saturday, April 4, 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.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.

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 help sea otters. 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.


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