Comments by SteveShimek

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Posted on January 3 at 11:38 a.m.

Hi everyone,

Steve Shimek here with The Otter Project. Just to clarify, The Otter Project is a different organization than Friends of the Sea Otter.

Jason with FSO is correct in his statements that overfishing and disease were huge factors in the black abalone's decline. But I don't want to paint the picture that sea otters and abalone FISHERIES can co-exist... I doubt they can. Sea otters will take abalones they can reach and otters can reach about the same distance into a crevice a person can.

But the picture that "swest" paints is just wrong. There are abalone, mussels, barnacles, stars, and sea urchins in Monterey. (Some of the largest red abalone you will ever see are deep in crevices offshore Hopkins Marine Station). Our marine life is rich and incredibly diverse. Some would like to paint the picture that otters eat everything. It's just not true.

With sea otters comes an increase in biodiversity and productivity -- these are facts. And, sea otters change the fabric of the nearshore ecosystem. Because of this change, fisheries change -- generally from shellfish fisheries (although we have those here in Monterey too) to finfish fisheries.

Steve Shimek

On Feds Declare Critical Habitat For Black Abalone

Posted on October 6 at 1:49 p.m.

Mr. Crumley is certainly splitting hairs here. The southern sea otter is listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. In ordinary vernacular, any ESA listed species is generally referred to as endangered. But whatever, there are around 2700 southern sea otters where there were between 12,000 and 15,000 according to the best available science.

Otters die from a variety of causes including disease (that is by far #1), boat strike, gunshot, shark bite, and research. Very few otters are found emaciated - an indication of starvation.

I do strongly disagree with Mr. Kettman on his opening point. Otters will not decimate shellfish fisheries within the decade -- there just aren't hundreds of otters lined up at the line ready to swim south. It took 80 years for the sea otter range to expand from Big Sur to Point Conception; it will perhaps take as long for the otter's range to expand from Pt. Conception to the Mexican Border and throughout the Islands. Commercial fisheries will very likely adapt during that time from shellfish to finfish -- as they have done up and down the coast within the sea otter's current range.

On Otters or Shellfish?

Posted on August 16 at 2:48 p.m.

You guys crack me up. Let’s do some fact checking here:

There is some reason to be skeptical of the government press release announcing the latest spring sea otter count. The raw count of otters actually went up -- A fact we highlighted in our press release from The Otter Project.

But now let’s look at the anti-otter hysteria some are spreading. Steve Rebuck signed his letter as a technical consultant to the Recovery Team. Now Steve, you know that the technical consultants were a stakeholder group; why don’t you just disclose that you represented abalone and sea urchin interests? And you crack me up, claiming on the radio that sea otters are land mammals and offering as proof that the US Fish and Wildlife Service only manages land animals! Check out who manages walrus. You could work for BP! Did you ever think to look at their rear FLIPPERS? And your inflated census number? The fact is that the delisting number is actually pegged to the census result, not the actual number of sea otters in the ocean.

As far as a USGS counter surfing instead of working... Sorry. The stretch of coast west and north of Santa Barbara is counted by plane.

And fisheries. One commenter cried that “all sport and commercial fisheries for lobster, clam, abalone, sea urchin, crab and scallops will die.” It is true that sea otters will out-compete fishermen for clam, abalone, and sea urchin. But let’s understand that these are fisheries created on the artificial otter-less environment. The otters were here first! The abalone fishery is already gone due to overharvest, disease, and yes, sea otter predation. As otters expand their range over the next 100 years, they will slowly displace the urchin fishery. Scallops, I don’t know. Lobster, I’m not sure but there is some evidence that otters and the lobster fishery can coexist, just look at San Nicolas Island where both otters and bug fishery seem to be getting along fine. As far as crabs, just look at the active crab fishery in Monterey Bay, where there are hundreds of otters. Otters and crab fisheries coexist. And let’s look at the benefits otters bring: more kelp and the fish associated with kelp. Higher diversity and primary productivity. Tourism.

I think it is true that we must decide if we want otters. But I hate to break the bad news: the public voted already. When the US Fish and Wildlife Service held a public comment period on ending the no-otter zone in southern California there were over 15,000 letters in support of otters and a couple of hundred against. At the public forums in Monterey and Santa Barbara, again, people – locals -- were for the otters return.

Otters being weasels, not rats… right on! Otters and weasels are both mustelids.

Yes, I am paid to advocate for sea otters. People can go to to find out about our funders and finances. Or visit us on the web at

Steve Shimek
The Otter Project

On The Current Crisis

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