Economic Benefits of Reintroducing Sea Otters to the Oregon Coast

  A new study from researchers at the University of British Columbia published in Science has determined that a reintroduction of sea otters to the Oregon coast could have economic benefits.   

One such long-term benefit of a successful sea otter population is healthy kelp forests, which store carbon and increase marine life. With increased fish populations comes greater catches, which, according to the study, “could be worth as much as $53 million per year.”   

In an even further breakdown, lead researcher Edward Gregr states that, “coastal ecosystems with otters present are almost 40 percent more productive. In the long run, that equates to higher fish catches worth $9 million, carbon storage worth $2 million and tourism opportunities worth $42 million per year.”   

This study was conducted to analyze the cost-benefit of sea otter populations off the coast of Vancouver Island. Previous reintroductions of the species in Oregon have been less successful than those done off the coasts of our northern neighbors.   

In response to this promising study, the Elakha Alliance has begun a “feasibility study” for reintroducing the mammals and are currently looking for funding in order to complete their own economic impact analysis, as well as working with local tribes to assess the human impact that reintroduction may have.   

Sea otters feed on urchins, clams, and crabs. The absence of these in shallow waters will require fishers, both Native and recreational, to fish in deeper waters. Coastal Native communities may be impacted culturally, as well as through food security. The Elakha Alliance hopes to address these concerns and work with local communities to ensure a smooth reintroduction of these inarguably cute sea creatures.