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Sea Otter Savvy

Sea Otter Science And Community Outreach

Friends of the Sea Otter: A Sea Otter's Best Friend

 Bachelor raft at Moss Landing

Friends of the Sea Otter is an advocacy group dedicated to actively working with state and federal agencies and other groups to maintain, increase, and broaden the current protections for the sea otter, a species currently protected by state and federal laws, and with two geographic protections on the Endangered Species list. We wish to inspire the public at large about the otters’ unique behavior and habitat and to take action to fully recover this remarkable species. 

By Cassie Pais, guest writer from Friends of the Sea Otter


margaret owings 300FSO founder, Margaret OwingsFriends of the Sea Otter (FSO) was founded by Margaret Owings, a well-respected conservationist, and Dr. Jim Mattison, an avid outdoorsman, in 1968. Mrs. Owings was instrumental in establishing environmental policy to benefit the sea otter. She spoke to legislators in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. and she rallied scientists, conservationists, educators, and friends to embrace FSO’s mission. Meanwhile, Dr. Mattison utilized his considerable medical knowledge to help in the biological research of otters. He turned his scuba diving hobby into a treasure trove of sea otter pictures, information, and data, and he helped develop a curriculum for teachers, produced a film about otters, and was instrumental in establishing FSO as an otter and otter habitat resource organization. Together, Mrs. Owings and Dr. Mattison transformed FSO from a small, grassroots effort to one of the most well-known and respected sea otter advocacy organizations in the world.

What Do We Do

FSO has been instrumental in securing protections for the sea otter that have allowed for significant population growth. When FSO was founded in 1968, the population size of the southern sea otter was only about 650. FSO and partner organizations have fought to restore the sea otter’s habitat and restrict hunting, exploitative fishing and shellfishing practices, and other forms of disturbance that hinder population growth. Due to these successful efforts, the southern sea otter population has significantly increased in number and now includes over 3,200 otters today!

FSO’s major accomplishments include:

  • Testifying in Washington, D.C. during the enactment and subsequent reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protections Act, and played a major role in the formulation of these laws. FSO also contributed to the listing of the southern sea otter as a “threatened species.”
  • Playing a pivotal role in achieving state bans on gill netting within the shallow waters of the sea otter range.
  • Reducing the oil spill risk to the California sea otter population and its coastal environment.
  • Collaborating with partner groups for nearly 25 years to secure the end to the No-Otter Zone and the translocation program, which was eliminated officially in January 2013, and intervening as a defendant against a lawsuit by the fishing industry seeking to reinstate zonal management.
  • Working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and partner groups to promote the California Sea Otter Fund, the tax check off that appears on California state income tax 540 forms.
  • Supporting scientific research on important issues related to sea otter conservation.
  • Serving a key role in developing the sea otter recovery plan and helping achieve its recommended actions.

Mom and pup hauled out on dock in MontereyFSO remains a leading voice in sea otter advocacy today. While FSO is thrilled with the progress that has been made, the sea otter continues to face a host of challenges and barriers to full recovery. Between incidents of harassment, limited range expansion, and habitat degradation as a result of pollution and climate change, FSO knows there is plenty of critical work ahead. We will continue to work with on-the-ground partners, including Sea Otter Savvy, to educate the public on sea otter behavior, conservation issues, and the impact of human disturbance. In addition, we will continue to work with federal, state, and local policy makers to establish and maintain protections for sea otters and their habitat.

As a relatively small organization with a large impact, we count on the dedicated support of our members, donors, and volunteers to get things done. To learn more about FSO, go to www.seaotters.org or contact Cassie Pais at . Please follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay involved! 

 Sea Otter Savvy to proud to partner with Friends of the Sea Otter to protect California's sea otters!