Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO) has expanded its Board of Directors and added staff in anticipation of new challenges to critically important conservation efforts to save sea otters throughout its range from Alaska to Southern California.
Founded in 1968 by renowned conservationist Margaret Owings, FSO has been at the forefront of every action necessary to bring the California sea otter back from the brink of extinction, from the initial listing of the species in 1977 under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), to the closure of areas to fishing activities that kill otters by entanglement, to the preparation of a new recovery plan and research on diseases causing high mortality. Currently FSO is working with a coalition of environmental groups to bring an end to the zonal management program that would prevent sea otters from expanding into their former range in Southern California. In Alaska, FSO has been active in achieving the listing of the Southwest Alaska stock under the ESA, the preparation of a recovery plan, and the fight against the expanded hunt of sea otters by Alaska Natives for handicraft items.
Currently, the decision whether to allow for sea otter population growth in California necessary for recovery under the ESA is due this year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Fishing organizations are threatening litigation against such a decision. At the same time, an amendment sponsored by Congressman Elton Gallegly is threatening to impede FWS in reaching the decision to end zonal management while giving fishermen a blank check to kill sea otters incidental to their fishing operations.
With all of these threats calling for aggressive environmental activism, FSO has expanded its team to confront every challenge.
New to the Board are: Tim Eichenberg, formerly with the California Coastal Commission, Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Environmental Defense Center, and more recently San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission; Joyce Capuano who was with Smith Barney, a Registered Investment Advisory firm, and then started her own company, Artemis Investment Management LLC; Sarah Beyrich, who worked many years with Artemis Investment Management LLC and now serves as Director on the board of a 100 year-old manufacturing company in West Virginia; Teresa Clemmer who is presently serving as Of Counsel with the law firm of Bessenyey & Van Tuyn LLC in Anchorage, Alaska and previously was a litigating attorney with the Environmental Law Center Clinic at the Vermont Law School with extensive experience in environmental and natural resources law, including endangered species protection, federal land management, clean air and water, and many other subject areas; Cindy Tucey who currently teaches undergraduate courses in American Politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz; Dr. James Estes, a professor in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz and one of the world’s leading sea otter biologists; and Teiko Saito who was with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where she was the Chief in the Office of Management Authority working on permit issues, among other things, and most recently as the Acting Assistant Director for the Office of International Affairs. These seven new members join existing Board members Chris Miller who has been involved with Friends of the Sea Otter for over 10 years and is an active volunteer at the Monterey Bay Aquarium; Jennifer Covert, who has volunteered for many animal focused conservation organizations and has been with Friends and the Sea Otter for four years; Pam Ferris-Olson, a freelance writer, who wrote a thesis on the conservation of the southern sea otter and who wrote papers with the founder of FSO, Margaret Owings; and Jud Vandevere who has written multiple scientific articles on sea otters and is an honorary board member.
FSO also has added two new staff members. Jim Curland rejoins FSO as its new Advocacy Program Director, after having spent nearly 11 years as Marine Program Associate for Defenders of Wildlife. Jim previously worked for FSO from 1998 to 2000. Frank Reynolds, a recent Masters graduate from the Monterey Institute for International Studies, has been hired as Program Manager. Jim and Frank join Jennifer Covert, who besides her board duties is the long-time Senior Program Manager, as the front-line troops in FSO’s battle to protect this beloved species. The FSO staff will be assisted in this mission by the group’s attorneys, Don Baur of Perkins Coie in Washington, D.C., and Don Mooney in Davis, California.
FSO Senior Program Manager and Board member Jennifer Covert said, “FSO is delighted and invigorated by the addition of such an outstanding group of advocates from all relevant disciplines to our Board. They will guide our dedicated staff and outside legal team in taking whatever actions are necessary to protect this imperiled species and its habitat.”
Jim Curland stated, “It is great to be back at FSO, as we enter a new stage in the sea otter conservation campaign that is as important as any battle that has been fought before. Protecting this species will help restore the marine environment because, as a keystone species that preys on herbivores, sea otters assist in the growth of kelp forests, which in turn promote biological diversity and the economic gains that come with healthy oceans.”