Southern California fishermen have gone to court to protect their catch from sea otters. The industry has filed a federal lawsuit demanding that the US Fish and Wildlife Service reinstate a no-otter zone off part of the coast, reports Courthouse News Service. It seems the sea otters love to hoover up shellfish, and the fishermen are afraid their livelihoods will be wiped out. "We're not attacking sea otters," one of their attorneys tells the Los Angeles Times. "It's just that without a sea otter management zone, the fisheries our clients rely on will be decimated in 10 to 20 years."
Some background on the zone he's talking about, from a blog at Earthjustice: Congress authorized it in the 1980s. The idea was to relocate the otters from those fishing grounds to the more isolated San Nicolas Island, a move that was supposed to help both the otters and the fishermen. The problem is that the otters never took to the island and kept trying to return to their original waters. They would often get injured while being trapped and relocated. The Fish and Wildlife Service finally scrapped the no-otter zone in January, and the fishermen say the agency had no authority to do so. Environmental groups worried about the otters' stagnant population (about 2,800 for several years now) are stepping up to defend them in court. "If the fishermen's lawsuit were to prevail, our concern is that harm, injury and even death to sea otters would follow," says a rep from the nonprofit Friends of the Sea Otter. (Click for another story about wildlife and human intervention, this time at Yellowstone.)