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Possible New Rules for Sea Otter Blankets & Rugs

PHOTO: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering changing the rules on how sea otters can be used once they are harvested by Alaska Natives, which is something that concerns environmental groups in California. Photo courtesy: Heidi Pearson
PHOTO: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering changing the rules on how sea otters can be used once they are harvested by Alaska Natives, which is something that concerns environmental groups in California. Photo courtesy: Heidi Pearson
June 13, 2013

The federal government is considering changing the rules on how sea otters can be used once they're harvested by Alaska Natives, which is something that concerns environmental groups.

At issue is how much alteration must be done before an Alaskan Native can turn a sea otter pelt into a blanket, rug or other handicraft.

Jim Curland, advocacy program director for Friends of the Sea Otter, said the definition of "significantly altered" is too broad and at odds with the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

"To turn the clock back by promoting predator control and killing sea otters for the sake of fisheries is bringing us back to the Stone Age," Curland said.

Californians should care about what happens in Alaska because, after decades of struggling, sea otters in southeast Alaska are making a comeback, Curland said. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has extended the public comment period on this matter until Aug. 6.

Curland says environmental groups also are concerned about another threat to sea otters. An Alaska state senator has introduced a bill that would put a $100 bounty on the killing of sea otters.

"They're both efforts to try and manage fisheries using predator control," Curland said, "and that's just something again, you don't manage fisheries by killing the predator that might be competing with those fisheries."

Environmental groups are accusing the Fish and Wildlife Service of caving under pressure from elected officials in Alaska and a segment of the fishing industry who they say are trying to have sea otters killed to stop conflicts with fisheries.

More information is online at seaotters.org.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA