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Sea Otter Tax Check-Off In Jeopardy

March 15, 2010

MONTEREY, Calif. - A fund that helps the endangered sea otter is in danger itself. Since 2007, Californians have been contributing to the California Sea Otter Fund by checking off a box on their state income tax return. Last year, the fund narrowly missed its minimum target amount, but tax officials allowed it to remain on the form again this year.

However, the unsettled economy has conservationists worried once again, including Jacques Cousteau's grandson, Philippe Cousteau, CEO of EarthEcho International.

"Ever since my grandfather and my father, Philippe Cousteau Sr., made a film about sea otters, they've been one of my favorites. They are an iconic animal, and we have not done them justice over the last several decades."

The California Sea Otter Fund is the only dedicated funding source for research into issues affecting survival of sea otters, which have been on the Endangered Species List since 1977, Cousteau points out.

"One of the challenges is that we just don't understand enough about what's happening to sea otters. We know a great deal and we certainly know many of the causes that are affecting their decline, but there's always more to learn."

Cousteau says taxpayer donations aren't the only thing declining. At last count, the sea otter population had decreased for the first time in more than a decade. Only an estimated 2,800 sea otters currently inhabit California's coastal waters.

More information is available from Defenders of Wildlife at www.defenders.org.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA