In 2006, Defenders of Wildlife worked with California lawmakers to pass legislation that would establish the California Sea Otter Fund for sea otter research through a voluntary tax donation check-off box on state tax forms. Appearing on the forms for the first time in 2007, the tax fund needs to reach a target amount set by the California Franchise Tax Board each year to return the following year forms.
Sea otters have struggled to make a comeback in California. The 2012 population index – a three-year average of the annual surveys – was 2,792. That is a slight increase from 2011, but that figure indicates that sea otter recovery is still at a plateau.
How We’re Helping
Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund go to research by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Coastal Conservancy into sea otter mortality, and programs to improve near-shore ocean habitats and protect sea otters.
The sea otter tax check-off program, through voluntary donations, has managed to reach the target amount set by the tax board each year and return the following year. In 2015, Californians donated $324,059 to the program. The Sea Otter Tax Check-off continues to make a difference for sea otters thanks to the generosity of CA taxpayers. And now that we've well exceeded our minimum for 2016 (by nearly $15k and counting!), the check off is guaranteed a spot on next year's tax form. Hooray!
In 2015, Defenders of Wildlife worked with California State Assemblyman Bill Monning (D-Carmel) to introduce legislation that would re-establish the tax check-off for an additional 5 years. Defenders’ supporters sent in tens of thousands of letters to the assembly, senate and governor urging them to pass this legislation, which is so vital to sea otter recovery. Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in September 2015, extending the tax check-off to 2021.