USFWS Director Ashe to Attend Southeast Meetings on Sea Otters
August 22, 2012
Murkowski said the goal of the stakeholder meetings is to resolve growing conflicts between USFWS enforcement officers and Alaska Native craftsman who use sea otters and other marine mammals in their traditional clothing and handicraft designs.
“I appreciate Director Ashe accommodating my request that he visit Southeast Alaska. I want him to hear directly from residents who are impacted by both the growing sea otter population and who struggle to understand the confusing laws surrounding the use of sea otter products,” Murkowski said. “I look forward to working with USFWS to come to a resolution that will benefit both the citizens of Southeast, as well as the animals that we are working to protect.”
While sea otters are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, Alaska Natives are allowed to harvest and use sea otters in their traditional clothing, artwork and handicrafts. However, recent enforcement activities by USFWS have raised local concerns over how the law is being interpreted in Southeast.
There is also growing anxiety among Southeast residents over the dramatic increase in sea otter populations since the species was reintroduced into the region in 1960. The current sea otter population is estimate to be 20,000 animals, and is projected to reach as high as 30,000 animals by 2015.
The explosion in the number of sea otters has had a dramatic impact on local populations of red sea cucumber, geoduck, clams, red sea urchin, and Dungeness crab. Sea otter predation is estimated to have cost the Southeast economy $28.3 million since 1995. Sea otters have also had a significant negative impacted on coastal subsistence communities.
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