Chapter 1: Introduction

Short Summary

The Elakha Alliance, an Oregon non-profit organization, in cooperation with several partners, has supported the development of a feasibility study to determine whether existing habitat, source populations, and political, legal, economic, and social contexts are suitable for a successful reintroduction of sea otters to Oregon.

In recent years there has been renewed interest in the possibility of reintroducing sea otters to Oregon, with several motivating objectives:

  1. Restoring the various ecological functions of a keystone species formerly present in Oregon’s marine environment;
  2. Restoring the deeply-rooted cultural links between sea otters and human residents along Oregon’s coast;
  3. Increasing the capacity for the species overall to survive potentially catastrophic events, such as oil spills, through a broader distribution of sea otter populations on the Pacific Coast; and
  4. Improving the gene flow between northern sea otters on the Washington and British Columbia coasts and southern sea otters in California.

The overall goal of the Feasibility Study is to assist the Elakha Alliance, relevant state and federal agencies, stakeholders, and the public in identifying, understanding, evaluating, and addressing environmental, economic, social, legal, and other factors relevant to restoring a population of sea otters on the Oregon coast. It is intended to provide the Elakha Alliance and all parties with the best available scientific, economic, and legal information and analyses to guide consideration of future steps toward restoration, in consideration of:

  1. Implications for the viability of source populations and newly established populations;
  2. Suitability of habitat and the potential for positive and negative effects on ecosystems;
  3. Social and economic impacts, both positive and negative;
  4. Administrative and legal requirements; and
  5. Logistical constraints and steps for implementation.

The study is not intended as a definitive statement about whether the reintroduction of sea otters to Oregon is advisable, or indeed whether it is practically feasible from all perspectives.

The report is divided into 12 chapters (including an introductory chapter), each of which focuses on a different set of considerations that are germane to a comprehensive assessment of the feasibility of reintroducing sea otters to coastal Oregon. In addition to the chapters outlined below, there are a series of Appendices to this report that contain more detailed documentation, maps, and resources that are alluded to in various chapters.