In August 2022, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a positive 90-day finding regarding a petition from the sea urchin fishery in California to remove the southern sea otter subspecies (also known as the California sea otter) from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) list of threatened species. The USFWS is currently performing a species status review, which will inform the agency’s 12-month finding on whether delisting is warranted.
The southern sea otter was hunted ruthlessly by 18th and 19th century fur traders and, by the 1930s, was thought to be extinct—until a remnant population was found sheltering in the Monterey Bay area. The subspecies was listed as threatened under the ESA in 1977, and the population has grown to about 2,900 since—a mere fraction of its historical population size. AWI submitted comments asserting that the delisting petition fails to present sufficient evidence that the southern sea otter has recovered and no longer needs ESA protection.