logo sos

Sea Otter Savvy

Sea Otter Science And Community Outreach

Viewing Guidelines

pdfGuidelines for responsible sea otter viewing

There are simple guidelines marine recreationists can follow to avoid disturbing sea otters. Practice these yourself, and encourage others to do the same!

Distance infographic resizeGuidelines for distance for paddlers

Important note for boaters: The larger the boat, the more space you should keep between you and resting sea otters. The "5 length rule" applies, but scale it up for your boat's dimensions. Sail and power boats of any size should never approach closer than 100 feet, equivalent to 2.5 school buses! See more tips for boaters.

Avoiding direct interactions between sea otters, humans and pets

otter climb on kayakIf a sea otter approaches your kayak, paddle away!Habituated sea otters may try to interact with humans by climbing on kayaks. In scenarios like this, both humans and sea otters are at risk, and every attempt should be made to prevent physical interaction

  • Recognize that incidents involving direct contact between a sea otter and you or your pet are very dangerous.

  • If a sea otter approaches you while you are paddling a small craft or on shore, paddle away to avoid direct contact.

  • If a sea otter attempts to climb on your watercraft, use your paddle or other object to block access and/or push the sea otter off of your craft. While sea otters are protected by federal laws, a gentle nudge with your paddle to a sea otter attempting to climb aboard  is preferable as a means to protect human and sea otter from harm

  • If a member of your party is being approached by a habituated sea otter, render assistance in keeping the sea otter off their kayak.

  • Do not attempt to touch or pet the sea otter or pause to take pictures.

  • Do not allow your dog to chase, harass, or interact with a sea otter. A sea otter is capable of harming and even killing your pet.

  • Be a good sea otter steward off the water: Recognize videos and photos of habituated behavior may promote similar inappropriate and dangerous interactions with wildlife in the future. Use care when you share!

  • Your behavior can help protect and save sea otters!



What else can you do to help?

responsible kayaker

  • Practice behavior that is respectful to sea otters and all wildlife when sharing their space.
  • Encourage others to think about the needs and well‐being of sea otters when they are viewing them—be a sea otter savvy role model!
  • Be proficient at handling and maneuvering your watercraft, whatever type or size of craft you are operating. First time kayaking? Ask for instruction on how to turn and stop skillfully before launching. It's safer for you and it's safer for wildlife!

Most people love sea otters and do not wish them harm. Armed with a little information, we can share the coastal environment respectfully and peacefully with sea otters! Understanding the needs of sea otters is most important to help prevent disturbance, but don't forget, sea otters are protected from harassment by two federal laws, state law and a number of local laws and regulations. Harassment and disturbance of them, even when unintentional, violates the law!