This week, Senate Bill (SB) 587, the California Sea Otter Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund, passed the state legislature and will now move to Governor Newsom’s desk for signature. The bill will extend the current California Sea Otter Fund, which supports research and conservation efforts to protect the southern sea otter population through voluntary taxpayer contributions on the California Resident Income Tax Return. Contributions to the California Sea Otter Fund are split between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State Coastal Conservancy.
The bill will continue critical funding for “increased investigation, prevention, and enforcement actions related to sea otter mortality” as well as “competitive grants and contracts to public agencies and nonprofit organizations for research, science, protection, projects, or programs related to the Federal Sea Otter Recovery Plan.”
SB 587 will also reduce the annual minimum contribution amount for the fund from more than $300,000 to $250,000, bringing it into line with the other voluntary contribution funds. The bill will extend the fund to January 1, 2028, beyond the usual 5-year cycle.
Andy Johnson, California representative for Defenders of Wildlife, issued this statement:
“Defenders of Wildlife is a proud supporter of SB 587 and we thank Senator Monning for authoring this important bill to extend critical funding for southern sea otters. The California Sea Otter Voluntary Tax Contribution Fund will allow California taxpayers to continue contributing to research and conservation efforts, which will inform and guide management decisions as otters continue to face threats like human disturbance and habitat loss. This important funding source will help ensure a positive future for this special marine mammal.”
- Defenders of Wildlife has a long history of promoting the conservation of sea otters. In 2006, together with Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO), Defenders successfully advocated for legislation that increased protections for sea otters from diseases transmitted through poor water quality. The law required that cat litter sold in California must include a statement discouraging the flushing of cat litter in toilets or disposing of it outdoors, where pathogens in cat feces can enter the watershed, flow to the ocean and cause disease in sea otters. The legislation also created the original California Sea Otter Fund, which has raised nearly $4 million to date.
- Defenders worked in collaboration with FSO and other conservation partners to end the “no-otter zone” and to enact regulations to end the use of set gill nets in waters less than 60 fathoms (360 feet) deep from Marin County to northern Santa Barbara County.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, marine wildlife populations are facing potential impacts from an increase in outdoor recreation activities. By early August, most marine recreation businesses in Central California were operating at full capacity, with some experiencing record rental numbers. Conservation groups are receiving reports of disturbances to sea otters and other marine wildlife. Defenders and Sea Otter Savvy offer guidance on how to safely coexist with marine wildlife and tips for how to behave when encountering animals in the wild.