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Otter Population Declines

A report says toxic chemicals are killing off California´s sea otters. The otters are also threatened by previously recognized dangers like oil spills, damaged habitat and gunshots. To reverse the decline, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recovery plan recommends letting the southern sea otters roam along Central California´s Gaviota Coast where they once thrived, ending a “no otter zone” south of Point Conception. The report says the wider range would help protect the population in the event of a major oil spill. The report also recommends raising the population threshold for removing the species from protection under the federal Endangered Species Act from the 2,650 set under the last plan to at least 3,090. The otters were hunted to near extinction by the early 20th century, but reached a recent population high of 2,377 in 1995. Since then, however, the population has declined to a current count of about 2,150 animals.