Fishing Attracts Tourists Too

Friday, March 9, 2012
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Concerning Jason Lutterman’s article, “Sea Otters in Crosshairs of Gallegly Bill,” it might help if Mr. Lutterman were to study up on the history of the No-Otter/Management Zone and his organization’s participation in creating it.

In 1984 and 1985, I was a witness before a House of Representatives subcommittee, appearing on the then-proposed sea otter translocation to San Nicolas Island (SNI), Ventura County. I sat next to a representative of Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO), a regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the science director for the Marine Mammal Commission (MMC).

The proposal to capture sea otters and move them had been identified as an illegal act by the Interior Department, Office of the Solicitor. It was a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Friends of the Sea Otter and the Fish and Wildlife Service were so determined to produce their “experiment” they were willing to agree to anything. The rules as published in the Federal Register included containing sea otters to San Nicolas Island. The arrangement was a compromise. It is codified in federal law, Public Law 99-625.

Now, Mr. Lutterman may not like this law. Friends of the Sea Otter and Fish and Wildlife Service may not like the law, but this is still the law. The State of California was forced into accepting this law, as were coastal cities, counties, and commercial and recreational fishermen.

The Fish and Wildlife Service exempted themselves from obeying this law 20 years ago. Friends of the Sea Otter has been the cheerleader for the lawbreaking.

Fishermen did not like this law, but were forced to obey it. Federal study demonstrated in 1984 that the region south of Point Conception – including SNI – was unsuitable for sea otters. Pollution of the marine waters and conflicts with fisheries were identified in the Dobbins Mapping Study. The Channel Islands are valuable fishing grounds.

Mr. Lutterman tries to make a case for sea otters as tourist attractions. Well, tourists also visit coastal communities for the boats, the harbors, and the fresh seafood. Fishing also provides jobs: Processing of fish products, distribution, chandlers, boat builders, dive equipment suppliers, and recreational opportunities. Mr. Lutterman obviously does not care about this infrastructure and the employment and taxes paid to communities and state.

What Congress did in 1987 was to create a “zonal management” structure that would preserve sea otters and conserve fisheries. But Friends of the Sea Otter has gone against this arrangement. They and other environmental non-government organizations (ENGO) have decided which animals in the ecosystem are most important. They play God with our resources. The downside is that we as a society lose. We have lost many valuable fisheries and the coastal communities have suffered great financial loss. The worst part of this is we have traded fisheries for a population of sickly marine mammals which have overshot their food supply. Friends of the Sea Otter and others want to destroy even more fishing grounds, but this time in violation of a federal law they helped to create.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

This letter makes no sense. Is the author for or against sea otters?

But if the otter food were so bad south of Point Conception, they would not be expanding their range here.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
March 9, 2012 at 8:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@John -
If you read the article by Mr. Lutterman, you might understand this response.

The sea otters are expanding into SoCal in the search for food, as they have consumed all the food in the north. Notice the slow growth of the population in the last few years, but expanded range. Also, take note of the mortality of these populations. They are unhealthy and dying from terrestrial sources.

Mr. Rebuck represented shellfish fisheries in the creation of the zonal management. The jist of this letter is to display the outright contempt, lies and disregard for the law that Luttermans organisation promotes in supporting the USFWS actions.

Just like the recent articles by these otter orgs. and the priceless piece by Prof. Estes, Luttermans article embraces the ignorance of truth and the hypocrisy of junk science for money.

JeffCrumley (anonymous profile)
March 10, 2012 at 12:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Luttermans article embraces the ignorance of truth and the hypocrisy of junk science for money."

Okay, I'll bite. Take this not as an attack but an earnest question: where is this "money" of which you speak? As far as the rest of us can tell, this is a debate between a group promoting the rights of a wild animal and an industry that believes said animal infringes on their way of life. Unless I'm missing something, the ones who stand to profit are the fishermen.

Sothep (anonymous profile)
March 12, 2012 at 4:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Junk science, marine aquariums and tourism. Heck, they get money from the broke-ass post office, gullible folks on their tax form, Barbara Boxer got 'em 25 mill from congress...I mean you and me. The most studied animal and the worst recovery...are you kidding me!?

There is documented, empirical fact that says otters are sickly in California. The further south, the sicklier. There are studies that show otters can not survive further south. There is documentation otters are sickly in Monterey.
Why...really honestly, Why would we want otters south to destroy healthy shellfish with the threat of loosing both shellfish AND otters?

Otters have been exploited to create an entire financial economy. These otter people are not telling you the truth, period.

If you want to discuss of debate the facts with proof, get a real identity. I don't waste too much time on phantoms.

JeffCrumley (anonymous profile)
March 12, 2012 at 10:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@Sothep via Steve Rebuck...

Clearly, the answer is the purchasing power of the environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs). Pew, Packard, Walton, Heinz, et al, have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into these issues and other fisheries issues. Commercial and recreational fishermen pale by comparison.
Sothep asks some good questions. But, his questions are loaded, making me think he may actually know the answers.
1) Who stand to profit? Well, both sides. One side produces food and has years of experience as observers. The other-side is in the abstract. Many have no experience in observing sea otters in their natural habitat. In my experience, I have met few "sea otter experts" who dive. What can they really know about a marine mammal without entering their habitat? Book learning?
2)Sothep said, " industry believes said animals infringe on their way of life." Wrong. The "industry" KNOWS what happens. There is significant published data by California, academic and federal scientist documenting the loss of multiple fisheries, primarily shellfish" abalone, sea urchin, Pismo clams, etc. However, sea bass, rock fish and halibut commercial fisheries have also been precluded. Have you noticed the cost of any of these fish these days? do you not understand the economics of these issues? It is not just the cost of retail fish. Add to it the loss of taxes to your community. The loss of jobs and infrastructure. Recreation. Do you care about this?
3)And about "promoting rights of animals" or fishing. Do you think food in the grocery store is manufactured in the backroom? Sorry, it is not.
Some environmentalist have found ways to promote their own agendas, make a nice living, and gain power over others. Fishermen harvest food under a myriad of regulation: City/county fees, state and federal permits and taxes. If you observe all those fishing boats in the Santa Barbara Harbor, how much do you think it costs just to park your boat? And, this, plus fuel, groceries, maintenance, licenses, etc, before one goes to work.
Steve Rebuck

JeffCrumley (anonymous profile)
March 13, 2012 at 8:19 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Read this article. It speaks volumes and if you have any ounce of common sense in your skull, you will understand.
Why take a chance on loosing all shell fish when the indicators show otters aren't thriving? This would just prolong the inevitable inability for otters to survive and we end up with neither otter or shell fish.

JeffCrumley (anonymous profile)
March 13, 2012 at 12:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

That's a neat article, thanks. It does raise a couple points though. First off, it confirm Lutterman's current population figures (California only, at least.) Another source show his historic numbers to actually be conservative (pun not intended). Secondly, it doesn't really support your position, or if so, only tangentially.

From what I've been reading since our discussion began, the immediate cause of otter death is linked to land-based pollution, so in that regard you're correct. The studies go on to say, however, that root-cause analysis is showing that the otters' suceptability is due to malnutrition secondary to poor food supply. If that's true, then allowing the species to geographically expand could counteract their current decline (which may or may not be periodic, per one report from the USGS).

As to arguing profit-based motivation, I can see your stance of saying some researchers are motivated by grant funding. Certainly the occasional person or lab will sell out to an industry (every single company that makes something has at one point paid for a self-serving study), but having spent years working for nonprofits, and having researcher friends (nothing related to marine wildlife), I would assert that funding will always come second, and is never, ever enough.

But I digress (it's a chronic condition). Even with the assumption that the groups pushing for regulation and sustainability do so out of personal interest, that's no different that the fishing industry's argument, which is blatantly motivated by financial gain (you corrected me above when I said "believe"; you're right, regulation would directly affect your way-of-life.) You can't villanize your opponents on suspicion of something you are guilty of yourself.

So what are we actually talking about? The key points seem to be:
1) Some groups are pushing to allow otter habitat expansion.
2) Some groups are resisting that expansion as a direct challenge to their way-of-life.
3) Otter populations are in decline (believed to be due to food supplies, but there's not a definitive answer).
4) My sense of humor isn't appreciated in these comment exchanges.

In other words, make your argument about what it's actually about: "otter expansion would negatively affect my income". Don't circumnavigate, make up figures, attack established research, etc. Foaming at the mouth just makes you a target for people like me who have no stake in the discussion, and undermines your position with those who do. Then come to the proverbial table seeking comprimise. Every harvesting industry needs regulation as protection against itself, let alone for the defense of the habitat they utilize. Seek sustainability, then you can rest knowing that balance has been met that will ensure the future of your industry.

Sothep (anonymous profile)
March 13, 2012 at 11:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As far as personal gain, niether Mr. Rebuck or myself are making money fishing/diving at this time. So, that argument isn't really applicable. We have previously, though and that is the reason for our debate and discontent. It's not about the money, we get paid from no one. This is about the truth and the lies. It's about the decimation of species in favor of one; that may not make it anyway. This was vetted and compromised by all parties 20 years ago. A law was agreed upon. The only failure here is the otters ability to survive and the otter fans and the Federal governments failure to obey the law we all compromised on.

Steve Rebuck can't sign on the Independent for some reason. He's asked me to post....

Sothep once again asks some good questions.
1) " sustainability..."
Sounds good. Cox, 1962, California Fish and Game Bulletin 118: "The red abalone catch averaged two million pounds per year from 1916 through 1960 and almost all came from this region" (Cape San Martin to Cayucos). 44 years at 2million pounds per year sounds very sustainable.

2) "Then come to the table seeking compromise."
This is what happened in 1985 before congress. Friends of the Sea Otter and US Fish and Wildlife Service wanted San Nicolas Island. Fishermen were forced to "compromise" giving up one island to preserve the others. Now, some want fishermen to compromise again. How about the FSO and USFWS compromise by obeying the laws they helped create?

3) "...allowing the species to geographically expand could counter their current decline..."
Sure, but some of us have already witnessed what this brings, and for fishermen, there is little future. Once the south-central coast was depleted of 90% of shellfish (Miller, 1980, CalCofi report) we now have sea otters dying of malnutrition (aka starving). What's the point? Is this good wildlife management, or just a bad example of no management?

4) "Every harvest industry needs regulation as protection against itself..."
It would take a couple dozen pages to include shellfish regulations on humans. We have closed areas, seasons, size limits, in some cases sex limits, bag limits, etc. Sea otters have none of these limitations. Sea otters can overshoot their food resources. Kenyon (1969) reported: " appears that a large population of sea otters could seriously deplete food resources with their home range. Evidence is available that this does in fact occur." In addition, "Because of the general depletion of invertebrates and the apparent inability of juvenile otters to obtain an adequate number of fish and mollusks, these young animals are compelled to eat abundant and easily obtained immature sea urchins. An otter would have to consume nearly 6,500 of these immature urchins daily to supply the 3,000+ calories which appear to be required."

JeffCrumley (anonymous profile)
March 14, 2012 at 4:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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