Release of Economic Impact Assessment

The Elakha Alliance is pleased to announce that an assessment of the potential economic impacts of returning of sea otters to Oregon is now available on the Elakha Alliance website. 

Entitled Oregon Sea Otter Reintroduction Economic Study, Initial Estimates of Economic Impact and Discussion of Economic Value, the study was conducted by The Research Group of Corvallis, Oregon. This technical report was edited for clarity by Jennifer Gilden. The study employed a wide range of economic valuation techniques and assumptions and examined comparable situations in other areas where sea otters have returned. The study, along with a short Summary, is posted on the Elakha Alliance website. The full technical report is available upon request.

This economic study is an important follow-up to a broad study completed in early 2022 entitled Restoring Sea Otters to the Oregon Coast: A Feasibility Study. The feasibility study concluded that restoring wild sea otters on the Oregon coast is feasible but concluded that more detailed information and discussions is needed about potential economic and social effects in local communities where sea otters might live. 

Overall, the economic study finds that the Oregon coast is likely to benefit economically from the return of sea otters, However the study concludes that while sectors such as travel, tourism and fisheries that benefit from kelp forests will likely see benefits, other economic sectors may experience negative effects. The study projects that ocean commercial crab fisheries will likely not be affected, but that recreational crabbing and clam digging in bays could be affected in some areas. Aquaculture, mainly oyster growing, may also be vulnerable if sea otters are present, depending on cultivation techniques.

As a next step, the Elakha Alliance has already commissioned a focused assessment of how the travel and tourism economy of the southern Oregon coast might be affected by the presence of sea otters in coastal waters. This study will be available in early 2023 and will be discussed at presentations in Coos and Curry counties. 

The Alliance also will launch  a project in 2023 to work with local fishermen on the southern Oregon coast to examine how and where sea otters might affect local Dungeness crab and sea urchin harvest and to explore ways to reduce, avoid or mitigate any potential economic effects. And the Alliance is also discussing potential research into technical methods to protect oyster growing operations in Coos Bay.