By Lori Abbott
MONTEREY, Calif. - A $21,000 reward is being offered to help find the person or persons who shot and killed three sea otters near Monterey. Biologists with the Monterey Bay Aquarium found the dead sea otters at Asilomar Beach in early September.
According to Jim Curland, advocacy program director for the group Friends of the Sea Otter, with so few southern sea otters surviving in the wild, people need to do everything they can to protect them.
"It's the most I've ever heard of, in 16 years of doing this, that have been found at one time," Curland declared. "And it's just appalling; it's a heinous crime to shoot a defenseless animal."
Killing a California or southern sea otter is a crime punishable by federal and state laws, and could result in jail time. Southern sea otters are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
California sea otters are struggling to survive in the wild. There are currently around 3000 of the animals along the coast, which Curland says is down from historic highs of more than 15,000 otters before the fur trade era.
"Any sort of death in a population builds up," he warned. "Three sea otters at once; it's significant, and we want to send a message that it's not going to be acceptable."
The conservation groups and wildlife agencies offering the reward are urging the public to help in solving crimes involving poaching of protected sea otters. Anyone with information about the sea otters' deaths can contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. An anonymous report can also be made by calling the CalTIP line at 1-888-DFG-CALTIP. Audiofile.