Many people who live on or visit California's Central Coast have been delighted by the sight of wild sea otters. The California sea otter is an iconic species and critically important to coastal ecosystems and healthy marine habitats. Yet, despite their importance, sea otters are still in trouble.
The sea otter population has increased in fits and starts, and currently hovers around 3,000. Population growth continues to be affected by shark-bite mortality, harmful algae blooms, disease, and limited food resources. While this knowledge is being used by the State Water Resources Control Board in watershed management strategies and to inform policymakers, biologists still need to research other unknown threats facing sea otters.
Since its creation, the California Sea Otter Fund has helped support critical research to determine the impacts of toxic chemicals and disease-carrying pollution on sea otters living along the developed areas of the California coast. This information is extremely valuable in deciding how best to protect both sea otters and the coastal ocean habitats on which they depend. The fund is also supporting a study on sea otters in the Elkhorn Slough, an estuary between Monterey and Santa Cruz, to better understand how sea otters rely on this habitat.
Funds can also support further research and investigations of unexplained sea otter deaths. Given the otters' slow rate of recovery, it is essential that research continues to understand the threats that limit population growth.
In future years, the California Sea Otter Fund may support education and outreach activities to inform the public about sea otters and their habitat, as well as action the public can take every day to reduce impacts on the marine environment.
While this very successful tax check-off program is scheduled to end in 2021, I am proud to author Senate Bill (SB) 587 to extend the program until 2028. We need to ensure the sea otter's continued survival and the passage of SB 587 will help guarantee sea otters have a future along California's coast.
Californians have donated more than $3.6 million to the California Sea Otter Fund and have helped put sea otters on the road to recovery. You can help by checking line 410 on the State 540 Income Tax form and contribute to the fund.
State Sen. Bill Monning