After its initial congressional hearing on April 19, sea otter activists continue to monitor Rep. Elton Gallegly’s “Military Readiness and Southern Sea Otter Conservation Act,” which would make it easier for the Navy to test weapons on San Nicolas Island while protecting commercial fishermen from competition with the threatened marine mammal that loves urchins, abalone, and other shellfish.
The bill is an end-around the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s recent decision to begin extending federal protections for the otter into waters south of Point Conception. “We really have no problem with the military piece of this bill,” said Brad Hunt of The Otter Project. “But they’ve basically hidden the fisheries piece within a military readiness bill.” The bill will be picked up again on May 9, could be voted on by the House as soon as May 14, and then goes to the Senate, but action there is not expected until after the November election.