THE CASE FOR RESTORING SEA OTTERS TO THE OREGON COAST
It has been more than 150 years since sea otters lived on the Oregon coast. Their absence has had two significant consequences. One is the loss of a culturally important animal tin the life of coastal Indian people. The other is the loss of a keystone species that protects the ecological productivity of kelp forests in nearshore ocean waters as well as eelgrass in coastal estuaries. The current destruction of kelp forests and declines in eelgrass along the Oregon coast can be traced directly to absence of sea otters. But despite individual animals occasionally seen on the Oregon coast, it is unlikely that sea otters will return to the Oregon coast through natural dispersal.
Robert Bailey, President of the Elakha Alliance, an Oregon non-profit organization that seeks to restore sea otters on the Oregon coast, will discuss this fascinating animal, its role in the coastal environment, the consequences of its absence, and plans to return them to Oregon. He retired in 2011 after nearly 40 years of working on coastal and ocean planning and management for the State of Oregon.