On December 18, 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed a ruling to repeal Southern California’s “no otter zone” policy, whereby sea otters were removed from certain lucrative fishing sites along the coast in order to protect fishing there. The government decision will promote the recovery of endangered sea otter populations by encouraging natural range expansion. Defenders of Wildlife supporters sent more than 11,600 comments to USFWS to show their support for the termination of the “no otter zone.”
On January 22, 2013, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation in Thailand confiscated 11 Asian small-clawed otters at Suvarnabhumi airport. The otter is a protected species under the Wildlife Preservation and Protection Act, which prohibits unpermitted exports. The confiscated otters were redirected to the Noknam Bangpra Wildlife Breeding Centre in Chon Buri province and the Huai Ka Khaeng Wildlife Breeding Centre in Uthai Thani province.
Also on January 22, 2013, an Alaskan man pleaded guilty to violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act through the illegal harvest and sale of 87 sea otters. Three additional Alaskans sentenced in the investigation were previously convicted of related crimes against sea otters.
The Durham Otter Project, carried out by the Durham Biodiversity Partnership in the UK is quickly nearing completion. By the end of March, 2013, the three-year-long effort to protect the Eurasian otter via habitat restoration will have installed more than 40 artificial otter holts and nine mammal ledges, created more than half a hectare of reed bed, restored or improved nearly one kilometer of wetland ditches, and created four new off-stream pools in northeastern Great Britain.
In December, 2012, a resident of Kinmen, Taiwan captured a photograph of an Asian small-clawed otter bounding along the Wuchiang River on the western side of the outlying island. Otters are locally endangered and have struggled to survive in Kinmen, despite efforts to conserve the species in the eastern part of the island. Recently verified to be an otter, the photo is encouraging to local conservation officials.
The following river otter sightings were reported in Yellowstone National Park since the last newsletter:
o August 29, 2012: Participants of the Lamar Wildlife Getaway observed some otter tracks in Little America.
o October 4, 2012: Participants of the Autumn Day Hiking course spotted 3 otters while hiking along the Yellowstone River on the northern range. The otters were observed swimming and diving, then grooming one another on a rock.
o December 4, 2012 and December 14, 2012: Participants of Lamar Valley Wolf Week spotted otters swimming in the Lamar River in the middle of the Valley.
o December 26, 2012: Old Faithful Winter Expedition participants spotted a group of young otters at Chittenden Bridge and watched the siblings wrestle and play on the ice for over twenty minutes.