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USFWS holding open houses for sea otter recovery

 A raft of sea otters in 2011
A raft of sea otters in 2011

These otter-ly adorable ocean mammals were hunted nearly to extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries during the fur trade.

They’ve since recovered in parts of the West Coast, but haven’t made their way to most of Oregon and Northern California.

Oregon Coast Field Office Supervisor Michele Zwartjes said the loss of sea otters – as well as recent declines in sea star populations – have allowed other species to get out of control.

“On the south coast of Oregon, for example, there’s been a more than 10,000% increase in purple sea urchins," she said. "They eat all of the kelp that's available that that results in a barren state called an urchin barren.”

Zwartjes said the reintroduction of sea otters would bring lots of benefits to the ecosystem by keeping other populations like sea urchins in check.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is holding a series of open houses starting Tuesday in Astoria and heading down the coast.

“I’m really looking forward to these open houses as an opportunity to speak directly with coastal community members about the idea of sea otter reintroduction," she said. "I wanna make sure people are aware these conversations are going on.”

Zwartjes says they’re especially interested in the hard-to-quantify aspects of sea otter reintroduction, including the cultural value for indigenous groups, and the impacts on fisheries and tourism.

The open houses follow the release of a feasibility assessment for sea otters released last year by the USFWS. Zwartjes says they’re still very early in the process, and don’t know how long it might take until actual reintroduction would start.

Open Houses:


Astoria - June 20, 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM Astoria Elks Lodge #180 453 11th St., Astoria, OR 97103

Garibaldi - June 21, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM Old Mill RV Resort 210 South 3rd St. Garibaldi, OR 97118

Newport - June 21, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM Newport Recreation Center, Multipurpose Room 225 SE Avery St., Newport, OR 97365

Florence - June 22, 10:30 AM - 1:00 PM, Lane Community College, Florence Center, Room 103 3149 Oak St., Florence, OR 97439

Coos Bay - June 22 5:30 PM - 8:00 PM, Southern Oregon Community College,

Empire Hall, Lakeview Rooms E, F, & G 1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay, OR 97420

Port Orford - June 23, 11:00 AM - 1:30 PM, Port Orford Library, Large Conference Room 1421 Oregon St., Port Orford, OR 97465

Gold Beach - June 23, 5:00 PM – 8:00 PM, Curry County Library, Meeting Hall 94341 3rd St., Gold Beach, OR 97444

Brookings - June 24, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM, Coastal Community Center (located inside Coastal Home, Health, and Hospice) 585 5th St., Brookings, OR 97415


Crescent City - June 24, 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM, Del Norte Recreation Department, Gymnasium 1005 H St., Crescent City, CA 95531

Arcata - June 25, 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM, Cal Poly Humboldt, College Creek Complex, Great Hall Community Center Building, Room 260, 1 Rossow St., Arcata, CA 95521

Fort Bragg - June 26, 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM, Noyo Center for Marine Science, Discovery Center 338 N Main St., Fort Bragg, CA 95437

Bodega Bay - June 27, 11:00 AM – 1:30 PM, Bodega Bay Community Center 2255 CA-1, Bodega Bay, CA, 94923

Point Reyes Station - June 27, 5:00 PM– 7:30 PM, Point Reyes National Seashore, Bear Valley Visitor Center, Red Barn Classroom 75 Bear Valley Rd., Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Sausalito - June 28, 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM, Bay Model Visitor Center, Gallery 2100 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965

San Francisco - June 28, 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM, San Francisco County Fair Building, Auditorium 1199 9th Ave., San Francisco, CA 94122

Emeryville - June 29, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Emeryville Senior Center, Main Hall 4321 Salem St., Emeryville, CA 94608

If someone can't attend one of the open houses but has thoughts to contribute, Zwartjes said they can send an email to PacificCoastSeaOtters@fws.gov

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast. When not out in the field, Roman enjoys travelling and cross-stitching.