Rep. Farr's sea otter bill passes in the House.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monterey Bay's otters could get a lot more attention, if a bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday becomes law.
The House passed the Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Research Act, which authorizes funding for research and recovery of the threatened kelp-loving mustelids, by a wide margin on 316-107.
“The Southern sea otters are a keystone species,” Rep. Sam Farr (D-Carmel) said during Monday’s debate on the House floor, according to a press release. “That means if they break the chain, the whole ecological system falls apart.”
Farr (D-Carmel) introduced the bill, H.R. 556, which directs the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to award research grants to monitor and analyze otter populations, assess the causes of their decline, mitigate human activities that harm their habitat, and teach the public about them.
“Helping the recovery of the Southern sea otter has the added benefit of increasing Central Coast tourism revenue,” Farr added, in a shout-out to the otter love that is synonymous with Monterey Bay vacations.
For the first time in more than a decade, the three-year average for otter populations declined this year.
The Senate hasn't considered the bill yet, but environmentalists are already gearing up for a push.
"These playful and charismatic species are the main predators for sea urchins, abalone and other kelp-eating species. Without sea otters, these kelp forests would disappear, depriving our coast of key nurseries for many important fish species,” stated Jim Curland of Defenders of Wildlife. "We look forward to working with the Senate to enact this bill."