SEA OTTERS

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A raft of Sea Otters, San Nicolas Island

Otters (Enhydra lutris) [sea otters] are one of the most interesting of all California’s mammals. They are a member of the weasel family, and are very rarely seen out of the water. The male reaches lengths of up to 4.5 feet, with a weight of 45 pounds. The female is slightly smaller. It has stubby, rounded forepaws with poorly developed fingers with which it is able to hold food and other objects. The hind feet are large and webbed; these and the vertically flattened tail are used in swimming. The most common position for swimming or resting is on the back, however they can belly-swim up to 10 miles per hour. The most notable feature of the sea otter is its fur, which is a fine, soft, and dense shade of brown. The original range of the species was from the northern islands of Japan north and east along the coast and then along the Aleutian Islands to Alaska, down to Baja California.

Although the Japanese had hunted sea otter for several hundred years, their real slaughter began in the 18th century with Russian hunting. The sea otter trade, existing roughly from 1784 to 1848 though declining markedly after 1830, and the hide and tallow trade of the 1830s and 1840s, were the major international commercial activities that brought ships to California until the Gold Rush of 1849. Americans began taking otters in large numbers from about 1785. The early market for sea otter skins was in China, where the pelts were valued for their luxuriant ornamental qualities and their durability.

When Captain Jos. King returned from the last expedition of Captain Cook on which the ill-fated circumnavigator lost his life, merchants in Europe and America learned for the first time of the enormous prices the Chinese paid for sea otter skins in Canton. A new mine of wealth had been discovered and parties on both sides of the Atlantic at once took advantage of it.
In 1792, according to Hubert Howe Bancroft's "History of the North West Coast" there were about twenty-five vessels engaged in the China Trade, most of them from Boston. Their mode of business was most primitive. The traders touched at different points of the northern Pacific coast and the natives, knowing the places where the vessels were accustomed to call, carried thither their furs. Putting out to the ship in their canoes, they found spread out upon the deck the goods that most delighted their hearts. Many of the natives, being on the coast, traded the articles thus obtained from ships with the adjacent inland tribes and these with those beyond. In later years, when the first expedition crossed the Rocky Mountains going westward, they found European articles five hundred and even eight hundred miles from the coast.
In this manner, going from place to place along the coast, the trading vessels employed the summer. Then they proceeded to the Hawaiian Islands, there to winter and cure their furs. The following spring they would return to the Pacific coast as it required two seasons to procure a full cargo of furs.
After two summers' successful traffic they sailed to China, frequently completing their cargoes at the Hawaiian Islands with products of that country. In China the ship-master would sell his cargo and purchase teas, silks, beads, nankeens and other articles and return to Boston after an absence of from two to three years. The profits of such a round voyage varied greatly, of course, but generally they were very high and in many cases the result was a clear gain of one thousand percent. [January 20, 1887 SBMP]

By the end of the 19th century, heavy demand for this “soft gold” came from London. Between 1727 and 1938, over 3,566,000 skins are documented to have been taken. Sea otters once flourished around the Channel Islands, attracting well-known local seamen such as George Nidever, Crispine Vasquez, and Martin Kimberly. By the close of the 19th century, however, otter had been eliminated around the islands. By 1911 when their numbers were so low they were feared nearly extinct, the Fur Seal Treaty was enacted between the United States, Russia, Japan and Great Britain which protected sea otters from hunting north of the 30th parallel.

A controversial otter reintroduction program to San Nicolas Island has had very marginal success. In 1987, to appease the fishing industry, an “otter free” zone was created from Point Conception south to San Diego. San Nicolas Island was chosen as the site for otter translocation of otters appearing south of Point Conception, as well as the site for otter reintroduction. Between August 1987 and July 1990, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) translocated 140 otters from the California mainland to San Nicolas Island in order to establish a reserve population. That population was reduced to a third almost immediately. Some otters attempted to swim back and didn’t make it, others were preyed upon by killer whales and great white sharks. By 1993 otter removals from the so-called “otter free” zone ceased, but it wasn’t until January 2013 that the program was officially terminated, much to the objection of commercial urchin divers. By 2017 there were roughly 3,000 southern sea otters in California, up from about 2,000 when the program started. The San Nicolas Island population is between 80-100 animals, and otters have started to appear in small numbers at San Miguel Island.

Otters are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Mustelidae.


CALIFORNIA SEA OTTER CENSUS RESULTS, SPRING 2019


unpublished manuscript in the Bancroft Library, Berkeley, 1870s.
The manuscript describes the experiences of Boston ships on the Northwest Coast from 1787 to about 1812, but is principally an account of the Winship brothers and their ventures in the fur trade, 1803-1811. The authorship of this manuscript has been suggested by Miss Adele Ogden, from internal evidence and letter from Samuel Hooper to William D. Phelps, November 29, 1868, in the Phelps Collection, Widener Library, Harvard University:



  • 1933. Ogden, Adele Russian Sea Otter and Seal Hunting on the California Coast, 1803-1841 California Historical Society Quarterly 12(3):217-239, 1933 [1]



  • 1941. Ogden, Adele The California Sea Otter Trade 1784-1848 Berkeley: University of California Publications in History #26, 1941. 251 pages.
[original in SCIF archives]


  • 1973. Howay, F. W. A List of Trading Vessels in the Maritime Fur Trade, 1785-1825 Kingston, Ontario: The Limestone Press, 1973.


  • 1988. Steinhart, Peter with Jeff Foott (photos) Sea Otters Return to San Nicolas Pacific Discovery 41(1):16-22, January-March 1988
[original in SCIF archives]



Otter hunters around the California Channel Islands included:


18th century Otter hunting vessels:


19th century Otter hunting vessels:



Island Collections~
ISLAND COLLECTOR INSTITUTION DATE NUMBER SPECIMEN
San Miguel Island W. G. W. Harford YPM n.d. YPM-007107 Enhydra lutris nereis Mammals
San Miguel Island George McGuire USMN July 2, 1904 NMNH-133508 Enhydra lutris nereis Mammals
San Miguel Island Loye H. Miller LACM September 13, 1938 LACM-021544 Enhydra lutris nereis Mammals



ISLAND COLLECTOR INSTITUTION DATE NUMBER SPECIMEN
San Nicolas Island Loye H. Miller MCZ 1929 [?] MCZ-37321 Enhydra lutris nereis Mammals
San Nicolas Island H. H. Sheldon UCLA May 2, 1929 UCLA-15490 Enhydra lutris nereis Mammals
San Nicolas Island H. H. Sheldon UCLA 1929 UCLA-19090 Enhydra lutris nereis Mammals
San Nicolas Island L. H. Miller UCLA 1929 [?] UCLA-15490 Enhydra lutris nereis Mammals



ISLAND COLLECTOR INSTITUTION DATE NUMBER SPECIMEN
Santa Cruz Island Moodie Expedition LACM 1932 LACM-031032 Enhydra lutris nereis Mammals



In the News~

May, 1835 George Nidever, reported that he made at least two otter hunting trips to Santa Rosa Island: “…8 or 10 days after I arrived here Sills [Sill] and I went to Santa Rosa Island. We had no boats so we were obliged to hunt from land. We went over about May of 1835. Two weeks later Sills was taken sick and returned to Santa Barbara. I remained about six weeks longer and killed in all 8 or 10 otters; Sills having got none. I had with me a Kanaka Indian, employed to swim out for the otter killed; at $16 a month.” » Ellison, William Henry The Life and Adventures of George Nidever, 1802-1883, 1937.


[1836] May 28, 1860 [DAC]: “Letter from Mr. Wallace. Los Angeles, May 18, 1860. About sea otters and otter hunting… In 1836 the first license to hunt sea otter was granted by the Mexican government to William G. Dana, of Nipomo, San Luis Obispo county. Mr. Dana employed one Galbraith, a trapper, then residing at the Mission San Luis Rey, to hunt upon shares. Galbraith, taking Kanakas as assistants, passed over to Santa Rosa Island, and had remarkable success for a time. He found the otter abundant, and sometimes killed thirty per week. He hunted from the shore — no boats were used — the Kanakas securing the game by swimming. The skins at that time were worth $25 each…”


September 28, 1840: “Stopped at the Island of Santa Rosa and landed one of a gang of otter hunters from Santa Barbara with a lot of provisions for the party.” » Alta California 1840-1842. The Journal and Observations of William Dane Phelps, Master of the Ship Alert (p. 78). Glendale: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1983.


July 26, 1855 [SBG]: “A party of otter hunters, who left this city about six weeks since, returned a few days ago, having been extremely fortunate during their trip. They brought with them some fifty skins, which is an unusually large number for the short time they have been gone.”


October 18, 1855 [SBG]: “A party of otter hunters has just returned from the neighboring islands, after about one month’s absence. They bring with them forty-two otter skins, some of which are very large. A greater number would have been obtained but for a misfortune in having one of their boats so damaged as to be rendered useless during a part of their excursion.”


May 1, 1856 [SBG]: “A party of otter hunters left this port on Tuesday last for the adjacent islands. They were prepared for a three months cruise.”


May 15, 1856 [SBG]: “Another party of otter hunters left here on Thursday, 8th inst., for the adjacent islands.”


July 17, 1856 [SBG]: “Died on the 27th ult., on the Island of Santa Catalina, Mr. Samuel Prentice, aged 83 years. The deceased was an otter hunter and had been in the country thirty years. He was buried on the island.”


January 2, 1857 [SBG]: “The schooner Alex. Fisher recently purchased by a company of enterprising young men engaged in hunting sea otter along the coast, will leave port tomorrow an a six-month cruise.”


January 22, 1857 [SBG]: “Reports the Ella Fisher, [Captain] Kimberly, left Santa Catalina on the 15th on a cruise down the coast after otters.”


February 5, 1857 [SBG]: “A monster sea otter was shot and captured on Anacapa Island a short time since, which measured 6 feet and 7 inches from the nose to the tip of the tail, and 3 feet amidships. The skin is valued at $40.”


April 16, 1857 [SBG]: “Arrived. April 10th, schooner Ella Fisher, [Captain] Kimberly, from a cruise down the coast, bringing 55 otter skins.”


June 2, 1860 [SDU]: “The Island of Santa Cruz. As is well known, the United States Supreme Court recently confirmed the claim of Andres Castillero to the island of Santa Cruz. Of this island the Alta says: ‘It is the largest of the islands belonging to this State, lying about 25 miles south of the shore of Santa Barbara County, which there runs nearly east and west for a distance of about 40 miles. The island is about 20 [sic] square miles or 75,000 acres. It contains no special wealth of soil, timber, grass or minerals, but so large a body of land must possess value for many purposes. The island was once a great resort for seal and sea otter, but most of them have been driven away now. Andres Castillero, the claimant, is the same person who discovered and opened the New Almaden quicksilver mine.”


August 27, 1870 [SBT]: “Sailed. Schooner Louisa Harker, Davis, San Miguel Island, otter hunting.”


June 3, 1871 [SBT]: “Otter hunters. A schooner fitted out here for an otter hunting cruise, left port on Thursday last for the Channel Islands. The crew, who are not ‘shell-backs,’ this being the first voyage for a part of them, have all bespoke positions ‘aft,’ whatever that may be, and will devote their time to the study of navigation, so they say. How much navigation the embryo sea captains will learn we do not pretend to say, but are satisfied that aft or forward, they will gain a perfect knowledge of the science of skinning otter.”


August 31, 1872 [SBT]: “Otter skins are coming in with astonishing rapidity from that terrific toiler of the sea, our friend Don Crispin [Vasquez]. Quien Sabe how many poor unfortunates he will slaughter before the campaign is over.”


September 18, 1872 [SBT]: “The schooner Louisa Harker, Captain C. Vasquez, arrived from a hunt last week. After a trip of one month and 22 days, the Captain brought in one hundred and nine beautiful otter skins. These skins, we are told, will average about $35 a piece, making the proceeds of the trip about $3,815.”


February 26, 1873 [SBT]: “Captain A. J. Worth, with a picked crew, will leave this port on Saturday or Sunday for the coast of Japan. The object of the schooner Sanborn going to Japan is to hunt seal and otter. The news from that coast is sufficiently encouraging to warrant Captain C[rispine] Vasquez and others in fitting the schooner for this trip. Vasquez, known as one of the best otter hunters on the coast, will go in the Sanborn, and we expect to hear cheering news of the quantities of these aquatic animals taken by the crew which leaves for foreign waters on Sunday next. They have our best wishes for their speed, safety and success. The cruise is expected to last nine months.”


October 14, 1873 [SBDP]: “The schooner J. D. Sanborn arrived at this port yesterday, after a most successful cruise off the north coast of Japan. The schooner has been engaged in the profitable business of otter hunting for the past six months. Our fellow townsmen, Crispine Vasquez and Ben Burton, came with her. We are glad to know that these gentlemen have made a fine venture. We understand that they have taken 500 skins which average $75 apiece.”


November 23, 1875 [SBDN]: “Otter hunting. The schooner Cygnet will be occupied for some weeks in otter hunting in the vicinity of the outlying islands. This little vessel is just through with a fair sealing season in arctic waters. The summer in the northern sea is reported to have been unusually boisterous.”


January 11, 1876 [SBDN]: “The schooner Cygnet, Captain Kimberly, has returned from a cruise about the outlying islands for sea otter. Something more than a thousand dollars worth of furs were secured. She will go hence northward.”


April 22, 1876 [SBDP]: “…Sea otter are found in considerable numbers in the Santa Barbara Channel and around the islands lying off the coast, at the proper season…”


March 2, 1877 [SBDP]: “The schooner Flying Mist sails on her otter-hunting expedition this afternoon.”


January 20, 1879 [SBDP]: “Eugene Rogers sailed with the schooner Surprise last night for Lower California. He goes to hunt otter, seal, shark, etc., and will be gone from three to five months.”


April 17, 1879 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise sails today for San Miguel Island on a fishing and otter hunting expedition.”


April 17, 1879 [SBDP]: “The enterprising Rogers brothers have sent a crew of men to occupy Flea Island and other seal rookeries near San Miguel Island to take seal during June. In the meantime they will gather shells and hunt the valuable sea otter.”


October 24, 1879 [SBDP]: “Hunting sea otter. An industry that is of more importance than people generally suppose is the hunting of sea otter on the islands and coasts of Southern California. The great requisite in the pursuit of these valuable fur-bearing animals is a proper knowledge of their haunts and habits. They are rarely seen on shore, as they spend nearly their entire life in the water, and are chased in boats. The outfit for a hunting expedition consists of a small schooner with several small boats, and the necessary supplies of food, arms and ammunition...”


October 28, 1879 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise has gone to Santa Cruz Island to bring off the men hunting otter and seals for Rogers Brothers at that place.”


November 3, 1879 [SBDP]: “The Surprise returned from Santa Rosa Island Saturday night with a lot of abalones and a few otter skins for Rogers Brothers.”


November 7, 1879 [SBDP]: “The Nidever boys started in their little boats for the islands on an otter hunting expedition.”


November 8, 1879 [SBWP]: “The Surprise returned from Santa Rosa Island Saturday night with a lot of abalones and a few otter skins for Rogers Brothers.”


November 17, 1879 [SBDP]: “The Surprise has returned to San Miguel Island, where she left a party of otter hunters on her last trip.”


November 26, 1879 [SBDP]: “The schooner Surprise has returned from the islands with forty sacks of abalones and some otter skins for Rogers Brothers.”


December 20, 1879 [SBDP]: “The schooner Flying Mist, which left here about three months ago on a hunting expedition to the coast of Lower California, passed up day before yesterday. One of the crew, who came ashore here, reports an unprofitable trip. Only thirteen otter skins were secured, and the animals seem to have deserted the lower coast. But fifteen were seen during the entire trip, of which all but two were secured, so that the want of success could not be attributed to lack of skill.”


December 27, 1879 [SBWP]: “The schooner Flying Mist, which left here about three months ago on a hunting expedition to the coast of Lower California, passed up day before yesterday. One of the crew, who came ashore here, reports an unprofitable trip. Only thirteen otter skins were secured, and the animals seem to have deserted the lower coast. But fifteen were seen during the entire trip, of which all but two were secured, so that the want of success could not be attributed to the lack of skill ton.”


December 30, 1879 [SFDEB]: “The schooner N. B., engaged in sea otter hunting, has gone ashore at San Miguel Island, and is a total loss.”


January 3, 1880 [SBMP]: “The schooner Surprise sailed for San Nicolas Island today. She will return in a few days and go after the crew of the wrecked schooner N.B. who are otter hunting on the San Miguel Island.”


January 20, 1880 [SBDP]: “The Surprise, now cruising near the islands after otter, will go to the lower coast in about a month.”


November 23, 1880 [SBDP]: “The schooner Sarah Ann, Captain Johnson, is lying in port preparing for a cruise, seal and otter hunting.”


January 29, 1881 [SBMP]: “Schooner Convoy, Captain Mills, from San Miguel Island with otter skins, oil, shells, etc., arrived in port today.”


July 28, 1881 [SBDP]: “We understand that Mr. George Nidever and a party of gentlemen have chartered the schooner Convoy, and are fitting her up for an otter hunt. They will start in a few days, and will hunt along up the coast as far as Monterey Bay.”


November 19, 1881 [SBDP]: “Rogers Brothers fitted out a schooner which sailed for the Islands yesterday morning, on a cruise for otter, and for abalone shells.”


December 14, 1881 [SBDP]: “Otter hunting in years gone by was a very profitable employment to many of the citizens of Santa Barbara. It was fraught with all manner of terrible dangers, and cost the life of more than one brave man… Santa Barbara claims are now being presented to the government for damages sustained by otter hunters, from people of other nationalities…”


January 18, 1882 [SBDP]: “A fine lot of otter skins have lately been received by Rogers Brothers, from their hunters on San Miguel Island.”


March 24, 1882 [SBDP]: “The schooner Keturah, Captain Burtis, owned by Rogers Bros., will sail tomorrow for Lower California, with a crew of otter hunters.”


August 10, 1882 [SBDP]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain W. H. Mills, sailed last evening on a cruise down the coast. Her object is otter hunting.”


September 21, 1882 [SBDP]: “The schooner Keturah, Captain Higgins, owned by Robers Brothers of this city, has arrived from a six weeks cruise on the lower coast. She brings twelve extra fine otter skins.”


July 29, 1882 [LAT]: “Santa Barbara. George Nidever returned the other day from a successful otter hunt on the lower coast. He brought one magnificent skin into town, which would be worth from $125 to $150 in the market. The price of otter skins has advanced materially of late. Skins which formerly sold at $40 now bring $100. But to balance this, the sea otter is yearly becoming more scarce.”


October 6, 1882 [SBDP]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain Mills, arrived here last night from San Francisco. She has been down the coast otter hunting, and brought back sixteen otter skins.”


March 12, 1883 [SBDP]: “Larco’s schooner is also in port with a cargo of abalone shells, seal skins and otter skins, from San Miguel Island.”


March 17, 1883 [SBWP]: “Several schooners arrived in the channel Saturday and are now anchored near the wharf... Larco’s schooner is also in port with a cargo of abalone shells, seal skins and otter skins from San Miguel Island...”


May 21, 1883 [SBDI]: “Rogers Brothers sent an expedition to the islands this morning otter hunting.”


June 21, 1883 [SBDP]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain George Nidever, returned yesterday from a six weeks voyage after sea otters. The captain reports a rough voyage; soon after leaving port a strong southeast wind blew them as far north as Monterey where they commenced to work southward. During their trip they have succeeded in killing fifteen fine sea otter, each skin is of a fine quality and it is said range in price from $45 to $80 each. At a medium price, say $50, a skin the voyage would not pay large profits to the five men engaged in the hunt. Otter hunting is a slow and tedious business and requires a sharp quick eye and a sure hand to the rifle. The animals are timid as well as cunning and seldom expose much more than the nose above the water. The skins are at the store of Rogers Bros., and are a fine lot of pelts. The hunters report otter along the coast as becoming quite scarce and very difficult to kill.”


June 21, 1883 [SBDP]: “Thirteen of the fifteen otter skins brought in by the Convoy were sold yesterday for $650.”


'July 5, 1883 [SBMP]: “ “A son of Captain Burgess [Burtis], who is fishing for seals on San Miguel Island, while rowing out to meet Larco’s boat the other day, shot a fine sea otter whose skin netted him $75. This was what might be termed a good morning’s work.”


July 9, 1883 [SBDI]:' “Captain Sam Burtis, his son, and Antonio Cavalleri, came over from San Miguel Island last Saturday, after a two months hunting and cruising trip. Larco brought them over and also their cargo, secured while away. This consisted of eleven barrels of seal oil, almost three tons of skins, a quantity of abalone shells and dried fish besides fifteen fine large sea otters. The value of the otters is about $900. The captain and his party were unusually successful this time, and had a most enjoyable trip throughout besides.”


July 10, 1883 [LADT]: “A son of Captain Burgess [Burtis], who is fishing for seals on San Miguel Island, while rowing out to meet Larco’s boat the other day, shot a fine sea otter whose skin netted him $75. This was what might be termed a good morning’s work.” [Santa Barbara Press, July 5.]


July 10, 1883 [SBDI]: “Larco came back from Flea Island this morning with Rogers Brothers’ crew and brought a cargo of oil, otter skins, fur seal skins, the finest ever seen here for some time, and a number of hides, etc.”


July 17, 1883 [SBDI]: “The schooner Convoy has again been fitted out for a otter hunting expedition by Rogers Brothers, and she started for the Islands today.”


August 9, 1883 [SBI]: “The schooner Convoy Captain Ellis, arrived from San Miguel Tuesday with six fine otter skins. She was to leave today for Anacapa to bring over a cargo of sheep.”


September 6, 1883 [SBDI]: “The sloop Convoy has gone over to San Miguel Island for the purpose of bringing over a party of otter hunters employed by the Rogers Brothers. The present season has been a very successful and profitable one for the hunters.”


October 2, 1883 [SBDI]: “The schooner Convoy of Rogers Brothers, arrived yesterday evening from San Miguel Island with a crew of otter hunters bringing six otters.”


October 23, 1883 [SBDI]: “Rogers Brothers send another company of otter hunters out Monday next. They go to San Nicolas. This firm has out two companies at this time.”


November 8, 1883 [SBDI]: “Otter hunting. The sharp-shooters of the Santa Barbara Channel… Rifles of the very finest make are required, and some of the weapons brought into requisition are beautiful specimens of the gun maker’s art. The firm of Rogers Brothers of this city, have now three parties upon the islands of San Miguel, San Nicolas and others. They are taken over and left upon these islands on the schooner Convoy, belonging to this energetic firm, who keep a vessel employed attending to their abalone, seal and otter operations… The skin of an otter is worth all the way from $45 to $500, a wide margin. The points of excellence are size of skin, heaviness and length of hair, and in the best ones called “silver-tipped” skins a beautiful color is added to the ordinary shade. The fact that about 100 skins were obtained in these waters last year and that their value is roughly estimated at in the neighborhood of $10,000, will give an idea of the value and scarcity of the animals. It requires long practice to enable a man to become a successful otter hunter. About the most expert of the sharp-shooters in this business is George Nidever, now upon the islands. His father, now dead, was also was also an expert hunter, and the first man to shoot otters on this coast…”


November 28, 1883 [SBDI]: “The schooner Convoy, of Rogers Bros., sailed for Anacapa Island today on a fishing cruise.”


December 14, 1883 [SBDI]: “The schooner Convoy is in port with a cargo of dried fish. She sails for San Miguel for otter hunters tomorrow.”


December 16, 1883 [SBDI]: “The schooner Convoy, which has sailed for otter hunters at San Miguel Island, is expected back in a few days.”


December 21, 1883 [SBDI]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain Ellis, returned from the Islands last night bringing two otter hunting parties from unusually successful excursions. One party under the charge of Antonio Cavalleri secured seventeen fine skins, being the best catch ever done in the same length of time in those waters. George Nidever’s party brought back nine pelts which is by no means a poor result. The hunters have returned from their lonely haunts to spend the holidays, and their good luck will serve to make them sympathize with the folks on shore who are jubilant over equal good fortune in having a fine rain.”


January 4, 1884 [SBDI]: “The schooner Convoy is preparing for sea. The vessel will take a party of otter hunters in a few days.”


January 15, 1884 [SBDI]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain Ellis, sailed today for the islands on an otter hunting cruise and will be gone two months or so.”


January 19, 1884 [DAC]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain Ellis, sailed from Santa Barbara on the 15th instant for the Islands on an otter hunting cruise, and will be gone two months or so.”


January 28, 1884 [SBDI]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain Ellis, is at San Miguel Island hunting otter, securing sea lions and gathering abalones. Due at this place within a month.”


February 6, 1884 [SBDI]: “The schooner Convoy broke her rudder in the late southeast gale and became unmanageable. Captain Ellis let go his anchors in eight fathoms of water, but the storm became too severe and she parted her cables and went ashore January 27th a total wreck. The crew came home in an otter boat from San Miguel.”


February 6, 1884 [SBDP]: “The schooner Convoy, Captain Ellis, was lost in the recent storm. On Sunday, January 27, she broke her rudder and became unmanageable. The Captain and crew came home in an otter boat, from the Island of San Miguel, arriving here this morning. The schooner was of sixteen tons burthen, of the value of about two thousand dollars, belonged to Rogers Bros., of this city, and was not insured. She has been engaged in otter hunting off the Santa Barbara chain of islands. A week ago last Sunday, as will be remembered by all, the weather was stormy and the sea running very high. At that time the Convoy, as well as all small craft plying in the waters of the channel, was hovering close off the islands or keeping out to sea, and in pitching from crest to trough she became disabled and the schooner was at the mercy of the tossing sea. That the crew escaped without any serious injury or loss of life seems marvelous, but none suffered except from cold, hardship and possibly hunger.”


March 23, 1884 [SBDI]: “Otter hunter returned. Yesterday a party of otter hunters returned from San Miguel Island. They were under the direction of George Nidever, the Santa Barbareño who together with his father before him has been known as a leader of this branch of industry. The party came across in their hunting boats, as the sloop engaged to go after them was unavoidably three days late. As a result of their trip, they secured ten fine skins. This was not a large result for the time which has been consumed, but considering the stormy weather which has prevailed almost without cessation during the last two months it may be looked upon as indicating no little skill and perseverance. The fact that these experienced men would cross the channel in open boats speaks pretty well for their confidence in the continued tranquility of that roadstead. The hunters find the comforts of civilization quite acceptable after their long absence in roaming about the adjacent waters or imprisoned upon the shores of the islands.”


April 1884 [SBWI]: “...Captain Larco is a fisherman and the Ocean King has first duty as a fishing smack, but nothing comes amiss, a pleasure party to the islands, taking over a party of otter hunters and their traps, taking Chinese abalone fishers or any kind of passengers, carrying provisions to, or abalones, shells, skins, dried fish, fresh fish. In fact anything from the islands. [October 6, 1977 SBNP]


April 29, 1884 [SBDI]: “Captains Ellis and [Frank Wildes] Thompson have just arrived from San Francisco and brought the schooner Angel Dolly to take the place of the Convoy. The Angel Dolly is said to be the neatest, trimmest and fastest schooner of her class on the coast. She came from San Francisco in 35 hours. She has been used formerly as a yacht to take out excursion parties from Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Francisco, and will be used here for the same purpose, also to do what freighting there may be between Santa Barbara and the Islands, and also for otter hunting.”


August 8, 1884 [SBDI]:Angel Dolly leaves today for Point Sur, Monterey Bay, with a party of otter hunters.”


August 30, 1884 [SBDI]: “The otter boat being built by Mr. Forbush to the order of C. C. Hunt, is about completed and will be ready to launch about the middle of next week. The design of the boat is handsome, her keel being eighteen feet, overall twenty-four, and calculated to carry twenty-four hundred pounds. She is also rigged that she will carry more sail than any boat in the harbor according to her size, and judging from her symmetrical figure she will allow her ‘heels’ to all of them, not barring the larger crafts. The boat is to be run by the Nidever boys in and around San Miguel Island for hunting purposes. The family is to move to the island before long and make it their future abode for some tine to come. One of the boys, George, is, without doubt, the best otter hunter on the Pacific Coast, and brave enough to enter a lion’s lair. The cost of the boat will be something like $100, (that includes the wood work only), and her work cannot be surpassed in large cities where boat building is made a specialty.”


September 6, 1884 [SBDI]: “The otter boat will be launched tomorrow and her merits will be tried by a pleasure party who are to fish in the channel.”


September 10, 1884 [SBDI]: “The Angel Dolly arrived yesterday from San Francisco with 500 cases of coal oil for W. H. Myers and 10 otter skins.”


September 13, 1884 [SBDI]: “The Master of the Angel Dolly on making the trip to San Francisco and back, captured ten otters, valued at $800. She leaves this afternoon on an extended hunting trip up the coast to be gone several days.”


September 19, 1884 [SBDI]: “Captain Hurst, master of the Emma, having discharged his cargo of gravel, is making preparations with a view of taking out a party of otter hunters.”


September 22, 1884 [SBDI]: “We learn that H. A. Rogers is to fit out the schooner Emma for an otter hunt receiving two otter boats on the Santa Rosa last evening for such purposes.”


September 24, 1884 [SBDI]: “H. A. Rogers has about completed the fitting out of the schooner Emma, which will leave tomorrow for a cruise of three months on an otter hunt. Her destination will be along the northern coast.”


October 9, 1884 [SBDI]: “Joe Olivas and Ramon Vasquez, Santa Barbara boys, who have been off on an otter hunt to the Alaska waters, have been heard from. The schooner on which they were employed, belonging to a firm in San Francisco, and netted them $50,000.”


October 9, 1884 [SBDI]: “The Ocean King left yesterday for the islands on an otter hunt.”


November 24, 1884 [SBDP]: “George Nidever and Antonio Caballero came over from the islands Saturday, bringing with them twelve otter skins.”


November 28, 1884 [SBDI]: “Those who make it a business of hunting and capturing sea otter and seals upon the ‘tempestuous billows,’ at certain times of the year find it to be a paying business… It takes a man with a steady nerve, one who is not to become excited easily, as they are usually killed from the boat… The Nidever brothers and Antonio Cavalleri, who have been absent from this city about six weeks on a hunting tour, arrived in port about ten days ago with ten otter skins and large quantities of Indian relics. An otter skin properly cured and of a fair size is worth from $60 to $75, and averaging their otter skins at $50 apiece would net them $500, to say nothing of the Indian relics. They secured most of their game off San Miguel Island, and report otters and sea lions plentiful, attributable to the severe storms in the north and the bountiful supply of food they find in our southern waters, such as fish and sea vegetation. George Nidever , the eldest of the boys, is considered the best otter hunter on the coast, having been brought up with his father on the waters of this coast. He seldom misses his mark unless at the time the sea is rough, causing the boat to ride high upon the seas. They are to revisit the Islands ere long and try their luck for more otter.”


December 3, 1883 [SBDI]: “From the Angel Dolly, a schooner that was used last spring as a pleasure boat in our harbor, wile lying at the wharf in San Francisco last week, three otter skins were stolen.”


December 4, 1884 [SBDI]: “The Nidever brothers left yesterday for San Miguel Island to hunt otter.”


December 4, 1884 [SBDI]: “The schooner Henrietta, engaged in hunting otter, returned from a trip to the southern coast last evening, having made a lucky catch. She is bound, so we are informed, to San Francisco, thence she goes to the northern seas, where she has made several trips from the Bay heretofore.”


December 6, 1884 [SBDI]: “The Captain of the otter schooner, Henrietta, is getting his men together preparatory for sailing north.”


December 10, 1884 [SBDI]: “The otter boat, Henrietta, returned to our port again in search of men. She left last Saturday, but after a short cruise the captain became convinced that his help was inadequate. Men in Santa Barbara are scarce, particularly when they are asked to go on a salvage cruise, their pay to be regulated according to the catch.”


December 11, 1884 [SBDP]: “The schooner Henrietta, an otter hunter which has been lying in port here for several days, sailed yesterday for a cruise to the islands.”


January 9, 1885 [SBDI]: “The Angel Dolly left this morning for an otter hunting cruise.”


January 16, 1885 [SBDI]: “The schooner Angel Dolly, Captain Frank Thompson, leaves today for San Miguel Island on an otter expedition. It is possible before he returns he will take in the Southern Coast and make an extensive hunting trip.”


January 2, 1885 [SBDP]:Angel Dolly came in this morning with two otter skins.”


January 17, 1885 [SBDP]: “The schooner Angel Dolly went to San Miguel Island yesterday, taking over Mr. H. Rogers. On the return of the otter hunting party from the island, it is said the schooner will sail for Lower California where her crew will engage in the same business.”


January 21, 1885 [SBDI]: “Wild hogs are plentiful on Santa Rosa Island. A party of otter hunters recently left several valuable skins on the island while they went to San Miguel Island and back, and imagine their surprise, when they went to look for their skins and found them all devoured by the wild hogs.”


January 21, 1885 [SBDI]: “The Field Bros. are to devote their time in the future to hunting seals. They are negotiating for a large craft suitable for otter hunting purposes and they expect to be ready for work within the next two weeks.”


January 29, 1885 [SDU]: “Santa Rosa Island, opposite Santa Barbara, is overrun by wild hogs. Otter hunters and fish-dryers who left pelts and stores there, found on their return from San Miguel Island, that the wild hogs had devastated and devoured their all.”


January 30, 1885 [SBDI]: “The Angel Dolly arrived last evening with a catch of fine otters after an absence of ten days. H. Maguire accompanied the schooner and reports having had a pleasant time, visiting several islands in the channel.”


February 23, 1885 [SBDP]: “The Ocean King has arrived, but no otter.”


March 10, 1885 [SBDI]: “The schooner Otter, belonging at Point Sur, is moored in our harbor. We were told that she landed some hunters, who had been engaged upon the different islands in killing otter. What success they had we were unable to learn.”


March 25, 1885 [SBDI]: “The schooner Angel Dolly, Captain Thomas, arrived in the harbor yesterday after a cruise of several weeks along the Southern coast in search of otter. We are informed that their catch was small, and their mission was not a success financially speaking.”


March 26, 1885 [SBDI]: “The schooner Angel Dolly, that recently arrived from the lower coast with ten otter skins, was to have left this morning for the islands on a seal hunting tour.”


March 26, 1885 [SBDP]: “The schooner Angel Dolly, which arrived from Lower California a few days ago with a number of otter skins, sailed for the Channel Islands this morning.”


April 23, 1885 [SBDI]: “Twelve Chinamen left this afternoon for the islands to gather abalone shells on the Angel Dolly. She also takes out a crew of otter hunters.”


June 22, 1885 [SBDP]: “The schooner Angel Dolly arrived at this port Saturday bringing forty-five handsome otter skins, the result of a two months’ cruise. The skins are valued at $3100. This is the most successful trip made for many years, or as the captain expressed it, ‘since Captain Kimberly’s time.’”


June 22, 1885 [SBDI]: “Schooner Angel Dolly, Captain Ellis, arrived Saturday from a two months’ trip otter hunting, with forty-five fine otter skins valued at $3100. This is the most successful otter hunt that has been made on the California coast since the days of Captain Kimberly and Vasquez. We congratulate Captain Ellis on his success.”


July 8, 1885 [SBDP]: “The Angel Dolly this morning sailed for the islands with a number of Chinese laborers. From there the vessel will proceed up the coast on an otter hunting cruise, returning to this port about October 1st.”


August 1, 1885 [SBDP]: “…After her return to this port, the Rosita will sail on an extensive otter hunt.”


September 22, 1885 [SBDP]: “The schooner Angel Dolly started yesterday on a twelve months otter hunting cruise. In two former trips the crew captured a total of seventy-five skins, with an approximate value of $75 each.”


November 5, 1885 [SNDP]: “The Angel Dolly came in last night from an otter hunt.”


November 7, 1885 [SNDP]: “The Angel Dolly day before yesterday arrived at this port from a six weeks’ otter hunt. She brought eleven otter skins, valued at about $75 each.”


November 11, 1885 [SNDP]: “The Angel Dolly starts on an otter hunting cruise tomorrow.”


November 13, 1885 [SBDP]: “The Angel Dolly yesterday left on an otter hunt along the Santa Barbara chain of islands. She took a cargo of wire and fencing material to San Miguel Island for Mr. H. W. Mills.”


June 26, 1886 [SBDI]: “Sloop Ocean King left this morning for Flea Island to take on a cargo of seal oil and from there she proceeds to San Miguel to discharge supplies for men who are quartered upon the island. We are promised at no distant date a letter pertaining to the natural advantages of the two above mentioned islands which will prove of interest to many of our readers.”


July 2, 1886 [SBDI]: “The sloops Brisk and the Ocean King have arrived from the islands with cargoes of oil and skins.”


July 15, 1886 [SBDI]: “The Angel Dolly started up the coast yesterday morning on an otter hunt. She expects to be gone a month.”


August 3, 1886 [SBDI]: “Schooner Angel Dolly, Captain Burtis, arrived last evening from an otter hunt. The trip proved very unprofitable, for he only secured one for his trouble and outlay.”


August 5, 1886 [SBDP]: “The Angel Dolly has arrived in port from a month’s otter hunt at San Miguel Island, bringing in but one skin.”


August 6, 1886 [SBDI]: “The sloop Brisk is preparing for an otter hunt.”


1888 Report of the Commissioner, United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries (GPO: 1892) reports: “Pelts of sea otter” total 25 taken in Santa Barbara County. Otter grounds are indicated at San Miguel Island between Point Bennett and Harris Point.


October 3, 1888 [SBMP]: “A party of otter hunters left on the sloop Brisk yesterday morning for San Miguel Island. The party was fitted out by H. A. Rogers.”


October 3, 1888 [SBMP]: “A party of otter hunters left on the sloop Brisk for San Miguel Island, and expect to bring back quite a number of the valuable otter pelts. Fifteen to twenty years ago there were thousands of the little creatures around the islands and among our kelp beds offshore, but hunting them now is like skimming the cream from an empty milk pitcher they are so few. The party was fitted out by H. A. Rogers.”


January 9, 1889 [SBMP]: “Metcalf & Co., will send over to San Miguel Island a crew of otter hunters on the next trip of the sloop Brisk.”


June 12, 1889 [SBMP]: “The schooner Ethel has returned from two months on an otter hunting voyage up the coast. The hunters, two shooters and six assistants, had unusually good luck, and brought back 21 fine otter skins of the total value $1800. The skins were placed on display at the Metcalf and Hosmer grocery store where they have attracted much interest. One skin is a fine silver-tip, valued at $150.”


June 13, 1889 [SBDP]: “The schooner Ethel arrived this morning with 21 fine otter skins for H. A. Rogers.”


February 18, 1891 [SBMP]: “The sloop Liberty, belonging to Rogers Brothers, left yesterday for San Miguel Island on an otter hunting trip and to try out a whale which is ashore there.”


February 25, 1891 [SBMP]: “The sloop Liberty arrived Monday night from San Miguel Island with a number of Chinamen and a large cargo of dried abalones and abalone shells. A party of otter hunters was left on the island. They will also try out a whale which is ashore there.”


March 3, 1891 [LAT]: “The sloop Liberty arrived Monday night from San Miguel Island with a number of Chinamen and a large cargo of dried abalones and abalone shells, says the Santa Barbara Press. A party of otter hunters were left on the island. They will also try out a whale which came ashore there.”


March 13, 1891 [SBMP]: “The schooner Ruby is in from San Miguel Island. She brought back a gang of Chinamen, twelve tons of dried abalones, and four tons of abalone shells.”


August 1, 1891 [SBMP]: “A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Antonio Pasquallitta Giovanetti, alias Joseph Pasqual. The complaint was sworn to by Capt. W. G. Waters, and charges Giovanetti with stealing an otter boat from San Miguel Island. Giovanetti is now at Santa Cruz Island.”


September 26, 1891 [SBMP]: “The case of the People vs. Antonio Pasqualito, better known as Joe Pasqual, was dismissed in the Superior Court yesterday, upon ground of insufficient evidence. He was charged with stealing an otter boat from San Miguel Island.”


October 15, 1891 [LAT/SB]: “Rogers Brothers, of this city, have just completed the equipment of the schooner Ruby for their annual sea otter hunt at the islands and along the north coast. The expedition will be under the immediate charge of Captain Hicks, and the shooters are Jake Nidever, José Olivas and Edward Valencia, lately arrived from Bering Sea. The expedition starts today and will visit San Miguel Island first, thence to Flea Island and San Nicolas. The crew will be away about two months, and it is believed that the season will be a good one.”


October 17, 1891 [LAT/SB]: “Despite the protest and published declarations of E. Elliott to the effect that the schooner Ruby should not go to sea on the otter hunt, the craft did sail yesterday in charge of Captain Hicks as stated in the Times of Wednesday last.”


November 20, 1891 [LAT/SB]: “Rogers Brothers have just heard from their recently equipped otter boat. It had been cruising along the lower coast and the party had killed four fine otters worth several hundred dollars. The boat expects soon to go to San Miguel and Flea islands. Hunting is said to have been very indifferent owing to unfavorable weather.”


November 6, 1891 [LAT/SB]: “The otter hunting expedition recently sent out from this city by Rogers Brothers, has been heard from but once since it left here, and then only to the effect that everything was all right. The expedition promises to be a successful one.”


December 25, 1891 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Ruby has returned from another hunt at the island. Four otter skins is the result of a month’s trip.”


February 28, 1892 [LAT/SB]: “The sloop Ruby was sent out yesterday by H. A. Rogers with eight otter hunters for a cruise of eight months around the islands.”


March 4, 1892 [SBDI]: “The schooner Ruby came in from San Pedro this morning and left again almost immediately on a cruise after otter.”


May 1, 1892 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Ruby, fitted out some time ago for a three or four months cruise otter hunting among the islands be the Rogers Brothers, returned Friday evening after being out just two months. The hunt was unsuccessful, the weather being bad an no otter to be found. They killed one otter and claim to have only seen two during the entire cruise.”


July 19, 1892 [SBMP]: “The sloop Liberty is in from San Miguel Island. She brought over the result of a two month seal hunt, and the hunters’ outfit. There were about two tons of seal skins, seven barrels of oil, the otter skin, and two tons of abalone shells. The stuff was shipped to San Francisco on the Santa Rosa last evening.”


October 11, 1893 [SBDI]: “W. I. Cummings has returned from a trip to the islands. He has been absent two weeks and he brings back two very valuable skins of the sea otter obtained by Bob Ord's hunting party now on an expedition among the islands with the schooner San Mateo. The skins are from the silver-tip otter and have sold for $500 a piece, but the market is a little quiet at present and the owners will probably have to be satisfied with something less. Mr. Cummings reports that the party has encountered rough weather during the past few weeks, making it impossible to hunt much of the time.”


October 28, 1893 [SBDI]: “The schooner San Mateo arrived last night from the islands where for the past two months the crew, under direction of Bob Ord, have been hunting otter. They report bad weather, a strong wind blowing steadily around the islands. Of the weeks spent in the channel. they had only a few hours of hunting weather. During this time they secured only two or three skins.”


November 22, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “The otter-hunting schooner Herman, Captain Isaacson, put in here Monday evening, and the captain came ashore and informed the government authorities that there was a dead man on board. It seems that when the Herman left San Francisco November 13 for an otter-hunting cruise in the Japan islands, nearly all the sailors who shipped were drunk. One of them, Felix Le Couer, was very badly under the influence, and when about three hundred miles out, a raging fever seized him. The captain turned around and tried to regain the California coast, steering for Monterey, but head winds drove him to this port. Le Couer, however, died before reaching here. The coroner’s jury found a verdict in accordance with the above facts.”


November 29, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “The otter-hunting schooner Herman, which left here Wednesday night, encountered a calm and laid just on the other side of the islands all week. When the breeze sprang up it was discovered that two of the crew were seriously ill, and the captain put back to Santa Barbara. Health Officer Dr. Casal examined the men and certified that nothing serious was the matter with them, and they were permitted to land.”


December 2, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “The otter-hunting schooner Herman has started for Japan.”


December 5, 1893 [SBDI]: “The sloop Restless left today for the islands. Bob Ord and party engaged the boat for an otter hunt.”


January 5, 1894 [SBMP]: “The sloop Restless with Captain Burtis on board, left yesterday for San Pedro where she will be laid up for the next couple months. The sloop has been on an otter hunt at the islands for the past month, but reported an unsuccessful trip.”


March 29, 1894 [SBMP]: “The schooner San Mateo, which has been to San Miguel Island on another hunt, returned the other day without any otters...”


April 9, 1894 [SBDI]: “The schooner San Mateo left today for San Miguel Island and Point Sur on an otter hunting expedition.”


August 8, 1894 [SBDI]: “The schooner San Mateo is being fitted out for an otter hunting expedition.”


August 9, 1894 [SBDI]: “Captain Elliott and a party sail for the islands this afternoon on an otter hunting expedition.”


September 29, 1894 [SBDI]: “A rumor was circulated in town today to the effect that the schooner San Mateo, Captain Ellis, which sailed from here some time ago on an otter hunting expedition, had been lost with the entire party. The rumor was not confirmed, however.”


October 1, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “A report was current here this morning that the schooner San Mateo, which left this port some time ago with Captain Ellis and a party of otter hunters, had been wrecked and sunk with all on board. When traced up, however, the story seemed to have no foundation, and is likely to be only a hoax. As yet those most interested have been unable to get any confirmation.”


October 9, 1893 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner San Mateo, Captain Ellis, which a week age was reported lost, has arrived in port. She has been otter hunting up the coast, and has not been near any means of communication for some time.”


October 9, 1894 [SBMP]: “Captain Ellis of the San Mateo, who left here some weeks ago on an otter hunting trip, returned Sunday from a most successful hunt, nine splendid skins being the result of his days on the sea. Captain reports heavy seas and sloppy weather.”


October 17, 1894 [SBDI]: “The schooner Achilles, which arrived in the harbor some time ago, has passed into the possession of Captain Ellis and Hiram Pierce. It is stated that the San Mateo was traded for Achilles, and that the latter will be used for otter hunting, for which purpose she was built. She is a much larger vessel than the San Mateo and is a new boat.”


October 20, 1894 [SBDI]: “The Achilles, the new schooner recently purchased by Captain Ellis, is outfitting for an otter hunting trip around the islands and up the coast. On his last trip Captain Ellis in the schooner San Mateo captured ten otter, and having done so well is preparing to go in on a larger scale. The Achilles is a fine new two-masted schooner, 44 tons burden, and a speedy and safe craft. She will carry a crew of fourteen men besides the captain. Four boats will be used in hunting, each boat carrying a hunter and two men. On the last trip in the San Mateo, two small boat’s crews were lost from GET THE END OF THIS ARTICLE


October 20, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Achilles was tied up to the wharf this morning, discharging her cargo of four-foot pine wood, which she brought from Washington. The schooner Achilles has become a fixture of this city. Captain Ellis having traded the schooner San Mateo for her. She will be used for otter hunting, for which purpose she was built. She is a much larger vessel than the San Mateo and is a comparatively new boat.”


October 28, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Achilles, Captain Ellis, put to sea today with a crew of eighteen men. She will sail to San Miguel Island first, and if she finds no otter there will cruise down the channel as far as San Nicolas Island. Should she fail to find plenty of otter on the islands, she will then sail north along the coast, and will be gone all winter. Captain Ellis, in any event, expects to spend three months on the trip. The Achilles has a complete otter-hunting outfit, is well provisioned, and is a good, seaworthy vessel. Among the boats taken on board for the trip was Harold Doulton’s gasoline launch Chispa.”


November 21, 1894 [SBDI]: “The schooner Achilles, Captain Ellis, arrived in the harbor this morning from San Miguel Island, where they have been otter hunting for some time past. Owing to the heavy fogs and bad weather, however, they had very poor success. Mr. Harold Doulton who accompanied the party returned last night in his gasoline launch Chispa.”


November 22, 1894 [SBMP]: “The schooner Achilles, Captain Ellis, returned from the islands yesterday where she has been otter hunting. Ten excellent skins were taken.”


November 22, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Achilles, Captain Ellis, arrived this afternoon from her otter-hunting expedition.”


November 22, 1894 [SBDI]: “The schooner Achilles will remain in port a few days and then proceed down the coast, visiting San Pedro and then going to San Nicolas Island to continue the hunt. Captain Ellis says he is in hopes that the fog will lift after awhile and given them half a chance.”


December 28, 1894 [SBDI]: “The schooner Achilles, Captain Ellis after several weeks absence during which time she has been at San Miguel Island on an otter hunt, returned this morning after a very unsuccessful trip, with not a single skin as a trophy. Her last trip was also unsuccessful. The weather has been most unfavorable, the wind blowing a gale most of the time.”


December 29, 1894 [LAT/SB]: “The schooner Achilles, Captain Ellis, arrived in port this morning, after several weeks at San Miguel Island, on another hunting expedition. They were very unsuccessful, however, owing to bad weather.”


May 22, 1894 [SBDI]: “The schooner Achilles was outfitted today for an otter hunting expedition. Captain Ellis will sail up the coast going to Point Sur and other places. He expects to be gone about two months, and will probably start tomorrow morning.”


May 23, 1894 [SBDI]: “The schooner of Captain Ellis’ left today for Point Sur on her otter hunting expedition. She is provisioned for a two months’ cruise.”


April 9, 1895 [SBDI]: “Last night Captain Burtis and L. B. Pratt arrived in the harbor with the favorite pleasure boat, Restless, from San Nicolas Island. Last December Mr. Pratt went to the island with Captain Burtis and four otter hunters and leaving them there took the sloop to San Pedro, put her in winter quarters and returned here. A short time ago he left here for the island and has been spending some time cruising around, having visited Santa Catalina, San Clemente and the other islands, finally bringing up at San Nicolas. Here he found the otter hunters glad to see him and glad to leave the island. Their trip was not very successful, for although they killed five otter, none of them were secured, the strong undercurrent carrying them out to sea, and the sea being so rough that to launch a boat was impossible. Soon after arriving at the island the men found a box of butter and some wreckage, presumably from the steamer Los Angeles, as no other American vessel has been wrecked on this coast which would be apt to have just such freight. This is a wonderful find, as the island is about 200 miles from the place of the wreck. Mr. Pratt says he was at sea on March 29th, the night the Liberty was wrecked and that the wind was blowing strong from the nor’west, but that there was certainly no tidal wave as he would have felt it if there had been. He said, however, that the first question asked by the otter hunters on San Nicolas was if there had been an earthquake on the mainland. They said that on March 9th they were shaken up severely. It will be remembered that this was the day of the Mexican earthquake and also San Miguel upheaval, which gives some color of truth to the report of the disturbances, although there is no doubt that the reports were exaggerated.”


July 15, 1895 [LAT]: “Word has been received here that San Miguel Island is again kicking up. The report comes through an otter hunter who makes the islands the scene of his hunting expeditions...”


September 2, 1895 [LAT/SB]: “Antonio Caballero, the otter hunter who has been with Captain Ellis in the schooner Achilles, returned to Santa Barbara last evening, bring rather discouraging reports of the schooner’s success. The Achilles has been out several months and the hunters and the hunters secured only three skins. Caballero left the Achilles at Gaviota and the schooner proceeded to San Miguel Island where the hunt will be resumed. She expects to go to San Diego for new rigging in the course of a few weeks.”


June 6, 1896 [SBDI]: “Captain Samuel H. Burtis and Robert Ord will leave tomorrow for the islands on an extended otter hunt.”


June 8, 1896 [SBDI]: “Captain Burtis left last night for the islands in command of the schooner Restless with S. H. Burtis and R. C. Ord as passengers, bound for the islands on a peculiar errand. In old times the Channel Islands were the home of sea otters in great numbers, but they were so persistently hunted that they have been supposed to have been extinct for years. Captain Burtis, however, is sure that a few specimens at least remain, and that he himself has seen them. With this idea he has shipped a numerous crew and has gone in quest of those rare and valuable animals. The sea otter of the North Pacific is the largest of living otters, often reaching a length of four and a half feet, and is found in the open sea often many miles from land. Its fur is of great value, bringing in its raw state often two hundred and fifty to three hundred dollars, and is especially prized in China and Japan. It is exceedingly difficult to capture, and must be tired out by persistent rowing and shot when exhausted. Captain Burtis is an old sea otter and seal hunter, with great experience in Alaskan and Japanese waters, and is confident of returning with at least a couple of pelts.”


June 14, 1896 [LAT/SB]: “The little sailing vessel Penelope, was anchored near the wharf last night. She belongs at San Pedro, and has been otter hunting the past two years. She is making a pleasure cruise about the islands.”


December 12, 1896 [LAT/SB]: Harry Jacobs and George Nidever, two Santa Barbara boys, are playing in great luck in Yaquina Bay, where they propose to remain for two months to come. They have taken four sea-otter skins, according to reports, valued at $1000.”


March 3, 1897 [SBMP]: “Harvey Jacobs, the champion seal and otter hunter, left yesterday for the islands in the Restless, with which he has just returned from up the coast where he went to bring down his camp. He made a very brief visit to his mother here. He is accompanied by his brother, Clarence.”


May 14, 1897 [NYT]: “Hunting otters and abalones… The otter is becoming very rare in southern California. Forty or fifty years ago it was taken in goodly numbers, but now it is confined to the outer islands of this region… On the windward side of Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Nicolas and San Clemente islands, the valuable little animal is yet to be found. The otter hunters generally cruise about in a small schooner which lies off shore while they go inshore in a double-ended small boat, constructed with a view to riding heavy seas. This craft is rowed along outside of the kelp; the man in the bow, with rifle in hand, watching the kelp bed carefully for the round, catlike head of the otter that is liable to appear at any moment… The danger and difficulty in otter hunting can hardly be appreciated…”


May 16, 1897 [LAT/SB]: “Three sea otters killed near San Miguel Island… Harvey Jacobs, George and Jacob Nidever, three Santa Barbara boys, returned from a month’s cruise about San Miguel Island last night, bringing with them three magnificent sea otter skins as a result of their month’s hunt. All things considered, it was a very successful trip, as the boys were only out for a rest from real otter hunting, which they have followed for years, and they will start out on another long cruise up the coast on Monday. The skins brought in last night are of the finest grade, and are quite valuable, being variously estimated at from $200 to $400 each. In their present condition, dried and stretched, they are about six feet long, exceedingly fine, and a glossy jet black, except the head and breast, which is white and silver grey. The finest of furs covers every inch of the skin, even to the tips of the toes. The tail, from ten to twelve inches in length, is flat like a beaver’s and glossy black. The three boys saw some sixty of these valuable little animals in the kelp off San Miguel Island, but they were too wary to be captured…”


May 16, 1897 [NYT]: “There are several industries in California which are unique. One is otter hunting on the offshore islands, another abalone collecting… The otter is becoming very rare in Southern California. Forty or fifty years ago it was taken in goodly numbers, but now is confined to the outer islands of this region, where high winds prevail and the water is too rough for any one but the most intrepid hunters. On the windward side of Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Nicolas and San Clemente islands, the valuable little animal is yet to be found. The otter hunters generally cruise about in a small schooner, which lies off shore while they go inshore in a double-ended small boat, constructed with a view to riding heavy seas. This craft is rowed along outside the kelp; the man in the bow, with rifle in hand, watching the kelp bed carefully for the round, catlike head of the otter that is liable to appear at any moment. The little animal is very shy, and is away at the slightest alarm. They lie in the kelp and play with their young, tossing them in the air or riding with them on the swells…”


June 13, 1897 [SFCall]: “…Scientists will be sorry to know that the sea otter is extinct on Santa Rosa Island. This creature was very plentiful a few years ago, but none have been seen for a long time. Dr. Eisen watched for them in a systematic manner in the places where they were most likely to be, but did not discover any trace of them. The chances are that if they have disappeared from Santa Rosa Island they have disappeared from other places as well, so that it won’t be long before it will be impossible to obtain a single specimen…”


July 3, 1897 [Mountain Democrat]: “Santa BArbara boys have killed three sea otter near San Miguel Island. The skins are valued at $400 each.”


January 13, 1898 [LAT/SB]: “George Nidever captured a sea otter off San Miguel Island. The skin is valued at $250, and has been shipped to San Francisco.”


October 24, 1898 [LAT/SD]: “The steamer St. Denis brought thirty-one sea otter skins, valued at $4650… The sea otters were killed off Santo Tomas, Lower California, by Charles Lutgens of the schooner Kate and Anna, of San Francisco. They are valued at about $150 each, and have been very scarce until recently.”


October 30, 1898 [LAT]: “There is likely to be a stampede of the mosquito fleet for the Lower California coast after sea otters as a result of the remarkable catch made by Charles Lutjens of San Francisco in the schooner Kate and Anna, off Santo Tomas Landing the past week. He arrived on the steamer St. Denis recently from Ensenada with thirty-one fine otter skins, of aggregate value of $4650. He was engaged only two or three days in the work of securing the skins…”


January 28, 1899 [LAT/SB]: “Between 6 and 7 o’clock last evening Mike O’Brien, a stone mason of this city, made a determined attempt to end his life by cutting his throat with a huge jackknife from ear to ear, in a cell in the city prison, where he had been confined since 11 o’clock yesterday morning. O’Brien, who had been on a spree, asked the city jailer to lock him up. O’Brien had just returned from a sea otter hunting expedition, from which he had cleared $1000. This he has been spending freely for drink.”


May 4, 1900 [SBMP]: “The sealing schooner Kate and Anna, Captain Sam Burtis, arrived in port early yesterday morning with 107 seal skins and two otter skins, the result of a several weeks' hunt in the channel. The otter skins form a most valuable part of the cargo, as they are worth from $250 to $500 each.”


April 17, 1902 [SBMP]: “The schooner Restless, arriving from San Miguel Island yesterday morning brought the report of the wreck of the sealing schooner Kate and Ann, Captain Lutjers, in Cuylers harbor, on San Miguel, April 9th. The Kate and Ann had been out from San Francisco since January 20th, hunting seal and otter. On the afterboon of the 9th inst. the vessel was in the vicinity of Cuyler's harbor, and made for that shelter to escape a hard northwest blow. Anchor was dropped at about 1 o'clock in the afternoon, and Captain Lutjers was taking advantage of the first opportunity in several days to write up his log, when word was brought to him that the anchor chain had parted and the schooner was being driven on the rocks...”


October 26, 1902 [LAT]: “Robert C. Ord and a crew of several men have gone to San Nicolas Island on an otter hunting expedition.”


February 12, 1903 [SBMP]: “An otter schooner returning recently from a cruise about the Lower California coast reports very poor luck owing to the rough weather. The hunters return without a skin. The schooner left yesterday for a cruise about the Channel Islands.”


April 21, 1904 [SBMP]: “A sea otter, a very rare animal in these parts in recent days, has been seen fishing in the bay [Pelican Bay]. It was not a full grown one and not at all afraid of a fisherman and his boat.”


March 7, 1906 [SBMP]: “The sloop Restless sailed yesterday for San Miguel Island in search of sea otter recently seen there. Their hides sell for from $250 to $400.”


February 23, 1907 [LAT]: “’Chappie’ and Jim Gardner, who have spent the past three months on San Miguel Island, returned yesterday. San Miguel is the outer of the group off Santa Barbara and is little frequented. The object of their visit was to hunt for Indian relics and shells. They were very successful, bringing back several tons of fine abalone shells with the dried meats, and numerous boxes of interesting relics of the ancient inhabitants. They also brought back several seal skins, one of which measures over ten feet in length. They also sighted three sea otters, but these wary animals, whose skins are worth from $500 to $1000 each, were too cunning for the hunters.”


July 13, 1907 [SBMP]: “Jose Olivas, a pioneer otter hunter, a native of Santa Barbara, and for many years a resident of the Channel Islands, died suddenly yesterday afternoon at the home of Mrs. Madeline Morgan on Bath Street… He had spent the greater part of his life either on the islands or on the sea, and was considered one of the best otter hunters in the service when that industry was enjoying its greatest prosperity. He was with the H. Liebes Company of San Francisco and the Alaska Commercial Company for many years...”


August 17, 1907 [SBMP]: “Captain Vasquez arrived in this port yesterday in his new schooner, the Gussie M, bringing over four seals which are to be shipped east. The boat is a fourteen-ton schooner with a twenty-five horse power engine. She is forty-two feet long by twelve feet six inches in beam. She was built two years ago at San Pedro, where she was purchased. On Monday Captain Vasquez will go to San Pedro, later going on a cruise north, as far as Monterey, hunting for otter. This is the first expedition to go out after otter in four years, as the season has been closed. Captain Vasquez has a school of about twenty otter spotted. He has a new method of catching them, intending to use a net in place of shooting them. The last otter, which was caught by Captain Vasquez four years ago, brought $400. The skeleton, which was perfect, was sold to the Smithsonian Institution, where it now is.”


June 19, 1908 [SBI]: “Captain Rosaline Vasquez will sail at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning in his powerboat Gussie M for Lower California, where with his crew he will spend several months hunting otter. The skins will be shipped to Chicago to a firm of furriers. With him will go Julius and Art Valdez and Charles Ruiz.”


October 5, 1909 [SBMP]: “When fully prepared to leave for Point Sur on an otter hunt, Captain Vasquez was employed yesterday by Harold McCormick, now at the Potter, to take a party to Santa Cruz Island in the Gussie M. The party was composed of Harold McCormick, Mrs. Cyrus McCormick, Dr. and Mrs. Hamilton. Leaving early yesterday morning the trip was made across under ideal weather conditions, but when the return was made after spending the greater portion of the day cruising about the island, a heavy sea was found running and the trip was found very rough.”


June 6, 1919 [SBMP]: “The schooner Jennie Griffin, Captain Charles Slocum, has been anchored in the channel off Stearn’s Wharf, after many years of absence from these waters. As long as 35 years ago the saucy little two-mast schooner, fitted with the same rigging she carries today, plied the island coves for sea otters and valuable fur seals, abundantly found in these parts. At that time whole fleets of craft pursued this occupation out of Victoria and San Francisco. Then the government restricted the enterprise, owing to the fact that it was claimed the species was becoming extinct. The new law specifies that south of the 34th parallel, which crosses the coast in the vicinity of Point Hartford, the trade must not be plied…”


September 18, 1927 [Chester Lamb field notes]: “Engaged Captain Charles Hanson to take us there [San Miguel Island] at the price of $50, and also to bring us back for another $50.” He continues: “The Captain Hanson told me that four years ago he killed a female otter with her pup in the kelp near the island and also had taken many fur seals…”


November 2-11, 1927 [HSD]:Enhydra lutris (otter). Lower jaw bone picked up at Indian diggings appears to be the sea otter — specimen saved. Harry Sheldon”


1954: “FACTORS AFFECTING DEVELOPMENT OF PORTS SEA OTTER. The Spanish explorations along the west coast claimed the land for the Crown of Spain but little was done toward occupying the country. Trappers invaded the Central Valley of California, selling their beaver pelts to the English traders at Fort Astoria near the mouth of the Columbia River (1811) and Russians established settlements in California, primarily to gather the furs of "sea beavers" and secondarily to grow grain to feed their nationals in Alaska. Spain, fearing that Alta California might be lost to the Crown, decided to hold the new land by occupying it. Military forts (presidios), civilian towns (pueblos) and church settlements (missions) were established. Trade with foreign ships was prohibited and, a little later, under Mexican rule, the killing of sea otter was outlawed but smuggling flourished, and the hunting of otter and sea lions was carried on by ships of several nations. The most persistent hunting was conducted by the Russians and as early as 1804 they brought about 100 Aleutian Indians to the California coast to hunt otter from skin canoes. Sea otter were abundant all along the coast but were especially plentiful around the Channel Islands and the Farallones. The mild climate and abundance of food from the oceans led to a dense population of native Indians along the shore, especially in the Santa Barbara region and on several of the Channel Islands, particularly Santa Catalina and San Nicolas. The peaceful natives of the islands were friendly but the Aleuts played too rough. When not hunting otter they killed as many men as they could find and carried off the native women. They were so efficient that in eight years (1812) the otter of the Channel Islands were becoming scarce and the population of native Indians on the islands had been greatly reduced. Scourges of measles contributed to the wiping out of the natives but a few survived and those remaining on San Nicolas Island were transported in 1835 to the mainland where they promptly died of measles. In this chronicle of killing, the sea otter were the stakes. The furs were very valuable and fantastically high prices were paid for them by Chinese Mandarins. These prices attracted the greedy. The otter helped to settle California but they were reduced almost to the point of extinction till a belated state law of 1913 protected the remnant that was left along the San Simeon coast south of Monterey Bay.” (STATE OF CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME MARINE FISHERIES BRANCH FISH BULLETIN No. 96)


September 23, 2015 [2]: “California sea otters may have a better chance of expanding south along the coast after a federal judge last week backed a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to end a program that removed otters from areas south of Point Conception. The “no-otter zone” was established by Congress in 1986 during the early days of political meddling with the Endangered Species Act, in response to complaints from fishermen that moving otters to a new location could interfere with their fishing activities. The “no-otter zone” provision removed the sea otters from their natural habitat and gave fishing groups exemptions from Endangered Species Act protections. It was created with good intentions, as part of a plan by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to translocate sea otters to San Nicolas Island. At the time the agency suggested that the translocation program would help southern sea otters, which are protected as a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act, to gain protection should a catastrophic event like an oil spill threaten the otter population along parts of the California coast. The translocation program ultimately failed because not enough otters remained at San Nicolas Island to establish a viable population. Many relocated otters swam back to their waters of origin; others died from being captured or transported. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service subsequently determined that enforcing the no-otter zone would hurt sea otters’ protection and recovery, and the agency decided in 2003 that allowing otters to expand to their natural, historical range south of Point Conception would be necessary to achieve recovery of the species. After years of scientific study, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to end the “no-otter zone” program in 2012, and several fishing industry groups then challenged the decision. Earthjustice, on behalf of Friends of the Sea Otter, Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States, and Center for Biological Diversity, intervened to help defend the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision. “The ‘no-otter zone’ was part of a plan meant to promote the recovery of California sea otters, but it turned out to be an obstacle to recovery,” said Andrea Treece, Earthjustice attorney. “Otters are a vital part of our coastal ecosystem … otters need habitat and the kelp forest habitat needs otters. The decision today helps the sea otters and coastal habitat by allowing otters to expand their population southward without human interference.” “If threatened sea otters are going to be recovered in California, we need programs that encourage that recovery, not programs that hinder it,” said Kim Delfino, Director of California Programs for Defenders of Wildlife. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized that the ‘no-otter zone’ would do more harm than good to sea otters by keeping them from vital habitat, and the judge’s decision reaffirms that fact.” “We applaud the Court for rejecting this attempt by commercial fishing interests to decrease protection for imperiled marine mammals who are viewed as competition for the industry because their natural diet includes valuable shellfish,” said Ralph Henry, Director of Litigation at The Humane Society of the United States. The population of California sea otters before fur traders arrived is believed to have been between 14,000 and 16,000. But in 2012 the animals’ three-year population average was only 2,792.”


April 5, 2016 [ ]: “Today, Pacific Legal Foundation filed its opening brief in a challenge to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s denial of a petition demanding that the agency follow the law. This case centers on a sea otter compromise that Congress struck between the Service, environmentalists, and those who work and play in Southern California waters. Recently, the Service has destroyed that compromise, by unilaterally disclaiming compliance with Congress’ commands. The California sea otter is a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. In the early 80s, the Service concocted a plan to protect the species from oil spills, by establishing a second population of otters in Southern California. This proposal proved controversial, however, because sea otters are voracious predators that could wipe out surrounding shell fisheries and their presence could subject anyone who works and plays in surrounding waters to the Endangered Species Act’s harsh take prohibition. Congress addressed these conflicting concerns by enacting Public Law No. 99-625, a compromise statute that had been worked out between the agency, environmental groups, and groups representing fishermen (and others) who work and play in Southern California waters. The statute authorized the Service to establish the new population. But, to reduce the population’s negative externalities, Congress conditioned this authority on protections for the surrounding fishery. In particular, the Service was required to establish a zone around the new population, from which it must remove otters that wander into it (to prevent predation) and must exempt incidental take of otters. Congress left no doubt that these protections are mandatory. Not only did it say that they “must” be included in the regulation establishing the new population, but it specifically commanded that the Service “shall implement” them. Unfortunately, the Service’s plan was not as initially successful as it had hoped. Due to a high dispersal rate, the population on San Nicolas Island (where the new population was established) was smaller than anticipated. However, it was established. As of 2012, there was a population of 50 otters on the island, which was growing at approximately 7% per year. Despite the population’s persistence, the Service issued a rule in 2012 unilaterally terminating the protections for the surrounding fishery. The basis for this decision was that the population did not reach sufficient size within the first three years (which was by that point more than 20 years earlier). As a result of that decision, a population of sea otters has been established in Southern California, yet there are no protections for the surrounding fishery. What’s worse, is that people who work and play in the surrounding waters also enjoy no protection. This is precisely the result forbidden under the statute. This severely impacts fishermen, in particular. Our clients are several fishing groups whose members’ livelihoods depend on the restoration of these protections. Without the statute’s protections, they could be subject to substantial civil and criminal fines — and even imprisonment! — should they accidentally catch or get too near a sea otter. They are also vulnerable to environmentalists lawsuits seeking to put a stop to their work. We are confident that the Ninth Circuit will recognize that federal agencies are not free to simply ignore the constraints that Congress puts on them. In this case, Congress enacted a carefully crafted compromise and the Service enjoyed its benefit of that compromise by establishing a sea otter population on San Nicolas Island. As a consequence, it is bound to respect the conditions Congress imposed on that authority.”


September 20, 2016 [VCStar]: “Latest count finds more sea otters along California coast. More sea otters were spotted off the California coast this year, but officials say the population still faces a lot of hurdles. The U.S. Geological Survey on Monday released results of its 2016 California sea otter count, showing an overall increase in the population. For the first time, the population met a threshold that is needed for officials to consider removing the otters from the Endangered Species List. "We believe the high count this year is partly explained by excellent viewing conditions, but it also appears to reflect increased food availability in the range center,” said research ecologist Tim Tinker, who leads the USGS sea otter research program. On the ground and by air, researchers and volunteers surveyed the coast from San Mateo County to Rincon Point near the Santa Barbara/Ventura County line in the spring. They also counted sea otters at San Nicolas Island off Ventura County. The population index, a three-year average of the number of sea otters in the state, has to exceed 3,090 for three consecutive years for the otters to be considered for removal from the list of threatened species. This was the first year the sea otter hit that mark, with a three-year average of 3,272, up from 3,054 in 2015. But at the same time, the numbers of sea otters at the northern and southern sections of the range were dropping. Biologists said they are still seeing large numbers of stranded otters in those areas and a high percentage have lethal shark bites. At one time, sea otters were found all along the California coast, but by the early 1900s, they had been hunted almost to extinction. A small colony, however, survived off Big Sur. After the California sea otter was listed as a threatened species, surveys started in the 1980s as federal and state wildlife agencies worked on recovery plans. With such small numbers found only along the Central Coast, officials were concerned that one disaster could wipe out the entire species. "In 1987, otters were relocated to San Nicolas Island off Ventura County to try to establish a second colony on the island. The island population struggled with low numbers through the 1990s, officials said. But over the past decade, it has grown. Officials counted 104 otters at the island this spring, including 12 pups. The three-year average of the San Nicolas population was 78, up from 64 in 2015." ”


March 3, 2018 [Noozhawk]: “Ninth Circuit Upholds Protections for Sea Otters In a major victory for threatened southern sea otters, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a ruling denying a challenge by commercial fishing organizations to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decision that has restored protections for sea otters in Southern California. The Environmental Defense Center (EDC), The Otter Project and Los Angeles Waterkeeper intervened in the case on behalf of the FWS. The Ninth Circuit agreed with the environmental groups that the fishing industry’s position makes “no sense whatsoever” because it would require the FWS to implement a program after determining it was “counter-productive and harmed, rather than protected, threatened or endangered species.” This ruling affirmed two lower court decisions that upheld the FWS’s 2012 decision to end the “no-otter zone.” “We applaud this important ruling, in which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to terminate the failed ‘no-otter zone’ — a program that harmed the very species it was meant to protect,” said Maggie Hall, staff attorney with the EDC, which represents The Otter Project and Los Angeles Waterkeeper in this case. “This decision will allow the threatened southern sea otters to reinhabit their historic range in southern California, and we look forward to welcoming them back,” Hall said. The no-otter zone was created in 1987 as part of a larger effort to recover threatened sea otters, by establishing a thriving otter population at San Nicolas Island, and in exchange, excluding otters from an area extending from Pt. Conception in Santa Barbara County to the Mexican border. Unfortunately, the plan immediately proved deadly to otters. Of the 140 sea otters moved to San Nicolas Island, all but 11 either disappeared or died trying to return to their home waters or during translocation. In response to a lawsuit filed by EDC and The Otter Project, the FWS ultimately terminated the failed no-otter zone in 2012. This FWS decision allowed sea otters to begin to regain a foothold in their natural range in Southern California, an outcome vital to the recovery of the keystone species. “The fishing groups were insisting on an unnatural, unhealthy system serving their own narrow commercial interests," said Steve Shimek, executive director of The Otter Project. "With the court’s ruling, otters will slowly return and change the system back to the healthier and more complete ecosystem it once was, with bigger kelp forests and more fin-fish,” Shimek said. “Our marine ecosystem has been out of balance for decades," said Bruce Reznik, executive director of Los Angeles Waterkeeper. "Removing the ‘no-otter zone,’ restoring kelp forests, and enforcing marine protected areas are critical actions for reversing this degradation,” he said. “The science shows that our fisheries will be much more robust once our habitats are protected and the natural balance of the food chain is restored,” Reznik said. Recent estimates report the southern sea otter population at roughly 3,186 otters in a range that once supported 12,000 to 16,000 otters. The species is listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act and “depleted” under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Sea otter recovery is impossible with the “no-otter zone” in place. The case name is California Sea Urchin Commission, et al. v. Bean, et al. (9th Cir. 2018). For more about EDC, visit www.EnvironmentalDefenseCenter.org. Learn more about The Otter Project at www.otterproject.org. Information on LA Waterkeeper is at www.lawaterkeeper.org.”


October 31, 2018 [EdHat]: “In a major victory for threatened southern sea otters, the U.S. Supreme Court today denied a petition for certiorari to consider the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision restoring protections for sea otters in Southern California. The Ninth Circuit decision is now the last word on this case, putting an end to years of litigation. Otters will be welcome to populate their entire historic range along the California coast, while receiving protections under the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act. On March 1, 2018, the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion rejecting a challenge by commercial fishing organizations to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decision to terminate a program that harmed otters. The Environmental Defense Center (EDC), The Otter Project, and Los Angeles Waterkeeper intervened in the case on behalf of the FWS. On June 4, 2018, the fishing industry sought Supreme Court review, and the Court’s denial of that review marks the final word on this case: the sea otter victory stands. “We applaud this victory for sea otters—the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case puts an end to the many years of litigation in which the industry sought to reinstate the ‘no-otter zone’—a program that harmed the very species it was meant to protect,” said Linda Krop, Chief Counsel with the Environmental Defense Center, which represents The Otter Project and Los Angeles Waterkeeper in this case. “This decision will allow the threatened southern sea otters to reinhabit their historic range in southern California so they can fully recover and come off the endangered species list.” The “no-otter zone” was created in 1987 as part of a larger effort to recover threatened sea otters, by establishing a thriving otter population at San Nicolas Island, and in exchange to satisfy the fishing industry, excluding otters from an area extending from Pt. Conception in Santa Barbara County to the Mexican border. Unfortunately, this plan immediately proved deadly to otters. Of the 140 sea otters moved to San Nicolas Island, all but 11 either disappeared or died trying to return to their home waters or during translocation. In response to a lawsuit filed by EDC and The Otter Project, the FWS ultimately terminated the failed “no-otter zone” back in 2012. This important FWS decision allowed sea otters to begin to regain a foothold in their natural range in Southern California – an outcome vital to the recovery of the keystone species. In its decision, the Ninth Circuit agreed with the environmental groups that the fishing industry’s position to maintain the “no-otter zone” makes “no sense whatsoever” because it would require the FWS to implement a program after determining it was “counter-productive and harmed, rather than protected, threatened or endangered species.” This ruling affirmed two lower court decisions which upheld the FWS’s 2012 decision to end the “no-otter zone.” “The fishing groups were insisting on an unnatural, unhealthy system serving their own narrow commercial interests. With this victory, otters will slowly return and change the system back to the healthier and more complete ecosystem it once was, with bigger kelp forests and more fin-fish,” said Steve Shimek, Executive Director of The Otter Project. “Our marine ecosystem has been out of balance for decades. Removing the ‘no-otter zone,’ restoring kelp forests, and enforcing marine protected areas are critical actions for reversing this degradation,” said Bruce Reznik, Executive Director of Los Angeles Waterkeeper. “The science shows that our fisheries will be much more robust once our habitats are protected and the natural balance of the food chain is restored.” The species is listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act and “depleted” under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Sea otter recovery is impossible with the “no-otter zone” in place. The Ninth Circuit decision is entitled California Sea Urchin Commission v. Bean, 883 F.3d 1173 (9th Cir. 2018), as amended (Apr. 18, 2018). Learn more about The Otter Project at www.otterproject.org.