The return of sea otters to the Oregon coast will likely have a mix of economic and social impacts.
Research predicts sea otters will have a profound impact on the diversity and productivity of Oregon’s nearshore ecosystem that may benefit commercial and recreational fisheries. Sea otters also draw for outdoor enthusiasts and may for local wildlife watching economies.
However, even a modestly growing population of sea otters in localized areas could disrupt existing patterns of catch and consumption by some ocean users, such as sea urchin harvesters, commercial and recreational crabbers, and other shellfish.
Competition and conflict between sea otters and humans is evident in southeast Alaska. Compared to Oregon – researchers stress the substantial “carrying capacity” of southeast Alaska contrasting with Oregon’s localized, or patchy areas of suitable habitats.
Because sea otters do not readily migrate, have small home ranges, and have only one pup per year, their population growth and geographic spread will be slow.
Still, planning efforts will identify and anticipate potential conflicts and choose release sites to minimize chances of conflict with other uses.
Feasibility and Impact Studies
The Elakha Alliance is currently seeking funds to support the scientific and economic research needed to understand the ecological and economic impact of sea otter restoration to Oregon’s marine ecosystem and coastal communities.
Help the Elakha Alliance’s feasibility and impact assessments: