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Sea otters not out of woods yet

June 26, 2008 |  7:16 am

Seaotter_2

California's beloved sea otters, the furry, button-nosed creatures that frolic off the state's Central Coast, are not recovering as fast as hoped. Beset by disease and shot by angry fishermen, these voracious shellfish eaters have been holding steady. That's the upshot of the latest census conducted in May by the U.S. Geological Survey and the California Department of Fish and Game.

Seaotterstats

Although the otter population hasn't rebounded, there's a bright side to the low numbers, scientists point out. In a time when it's all the rage to declare a species recovered and remove federal protections under the Endangered Species Act, the otter has remained stubbornly below the threshold required to begin  "delisting." That means that the federal government will continue to unleash scientists to focus on a recovery plan for the Southern sea otter that was nearly hunted to extinction nearly a century ago.

The chart above, assembled by the U.S. Geological Survey, tells the story.

-- Kenneth R. Weiss

Photo: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

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