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Recovery Strategy for the Sea Otter

Recovery Strategy for the Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) in Canada

Sea Otter

Sea Otter

About the Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series

What is the Species at Risk Act (SARA)?

  SARA is the Act developed by the federal government as a key contribution to the common national effort to protect and conserve species at risk in Canada. SARA came into force in 2003 and one of its purposes is “to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity.”

What is recovery?

In the context of species at risk conservation, recovery is the process by which the decline of an endangered, threatened, or extirpated species is arrested or reversed and threats are removed or reduced to improve the likelihood of the species’ persistence in the wild. A species will be considered recovered when its long-term persistence in the wild has been secured.

What is a recovery strategy?

A recovery strategy is a planning document that identifies what needs to be done to arrest or reverse the decline of a species. It sets goals and objectives and identifies the main areas of activities to be undertaken. Detailed planning is done at the action plan stage.

Recovery strategy development is a commitment of all provinces and territories and of three federal agencies -- Environment Canada, Parks Canada Agency, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada -- under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk.  Sections 37–46 of SARA ( http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/approach/act/default_e.cfm ) outline both the required content and the process for developing recovery strategies published in this series.

Depending on the status of the species and when it was assessed, a recovery strategy has to be developed within one to two years after the species is added to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk.  Three to four years is allowed for those species that were automatically listed when SARA came into force.

What’s next?

In most cases, one or more action plans will be developed to define and guide implementation of the recovery strategy. Nevertheless, directions set in the recovery strategy are sufficient to begin involving communities, land users, and conservationists in recovery implementation. Cost-effective measures to prevent the reduction or loss of the species should not be postponed for lack of full scientific certainty.

The series

This series presents the recovery strategies prepared or adopted by the federal government under SARA. New documents will be added regularly as species get listed and as strategies are updated.

To learn more

 To learn more about the Species at Risk Act and recovery initiatives, please consult the SARA Public Registry (http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/)and the Web site of the Recovery Secretariat    (http://www.speciesatrisk.gc.ca/recovery/).

Recovery Strategy for the Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) in Canada (PROPOSED)

June 2007

Recommended citation:

Sea Otter Recovery Team. 2007. Recovery Strategy for the Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) in Canada [Proposed]. Species at Risk Act Recovery Strategy Series. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Vancouver. vii + 56 pp.

Additional copies:

Additional copies can be downloaded from the SARA Public Registry (http://www.sararegistry.gc.ca/ )

Cover Photograph:Brian Gisborne

Également disponible en français sous le titre

« Programme de rétablissement de la loutre de mer (Enhydra lutris) au Canada»

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans , 2007. All rights reserved.

ISBN to come

Catalogue no. to come

Content (excluding the illustrations) may be used without permission, with appropriate credit to the source.


The recovery strategy for the sea otter has been prepared in cooperation with the jurisdictions described in the Preface. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has reviewed and accepts this document as its recovery strategy for the Sea Otter as required under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). This recovery strategy also constitutes advice to other jurisdictions and organizations on the recovery goals, approaches and objectives that are recommended to protect and recover the species.

Success in the recovery of this species depends on the commitment and cooperation of many different constituencies that will be involved in implementing the directions set out in this strategy and will not be achieved by Fisheries and Oceans Canada or any other jurisdiction alone. In the spirit of the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans invites all Canadians to join Fisheries and Oceans Canada in supporting and implementing this strategy for the benefit of the species and Canadian society as a whole. Fisheries and Oceans Canada will support implementation of this strategy to the extent possible, given available resources and its overall responsibility for species at risk conservation. Implementation of the strategy by other participating jurisdictions and organizations is subject to their respective policies, appropriations, priorities, and budgetary constraints.

The goals, objectives and recovery approaches identified in the strategy are based on the best existing knowledge and are subject to modifications resulting from new information. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will report on progress within five years.

This strategy will be complemented by one or more action plans that will provide details on specific recovery measures to be taken to support conservation of the species. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans will take steps to ensure that, to the extent possible, Canadians interested in or affected by these measures will be consulted.

Responsible juridictions

Fisheries & Oceans Canada

Government of British Columbia

Parks Canada Agency


The Sea Otter Recovery Team (Section 4) led the preparation of this recovery strategy for Fisheries and Oceans Canada.


The development of the recovery strategy for sea otters was the result of valuable contributions by a number of individuals and organizations.  The Sea Otter Recovery Team and Fisheries & Oceans Canada is grateful to the following reviewers for their valuable advice and contributions on the recovery strategy in 2003: James Bodkin, Alaska Science Centre; James Estes, University of California Santa Cruz; Ian Perry, Fisheries & Oceans Canada;Greg Sanders, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Glenn VanBlaricom, US Geological Survey, Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. The recovery team and Fisheries & Oceans Canada also sincerely thank the many people who provided advice and comments through consultation workshops and written submissions to improve the recovery strategy.

Fisheries & Oceans Canada appreciates the time and dedicated effort contributed by the individuals and their organizations who participate on the Sea Otter Recovery Team and its Oil Spill Response Recovery Implementation Group (Section 4) and all those who are working with the team to achieve the long-term recovery of sea otters.

Strategic environmental assessment statement

In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals , the purpose of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is to incorporate environmental considerations into the development of public policies, plans, and program proposals to support environmentally-sound decision making.

Recovery planning is intended to benefit species at risk and biodiversity in general. However, it is recognized that strategies may also inadvertently lead to environmental effects beyond the intended benefits. The planning process based on national guidelines directly incorporates consideration of all environmental effects, with a particular focus on possible impacts on non-target species or habitats.

This recovery strategy will clearly benefit the environment by promoting the recovery of the sea otter. The potential for the strategy to inadvertently lead to adverse effects on other species was considered. The SEA concluded that, while changes to the nearshore ecosystem will result from the restoration of the sea otter to its ecological role, the strategy itself will clearly benefit the environment and will not entail any significant adverse effects. Refer to the following sections of the document in particular: Needs of the sea otter; Approaches Recommended to Achieve Objectives; Recommended Approach for Recovery Implementation.


SARA defines residence as: “a dwelling-place, such as a den, nest or other similar area or place, that is occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals during all or part of their life cycles, including breeding, rearing, staging, wintering, feeding or

hibernating[SARA S2(1)].

Residence descriptions, or the rationale for why the residence concept does not apply to a given species, are posted on the SARA public registry: http//:www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/sar/recovery/residence_e.cfm


Sea otters are a marine species under federal jurisdiction of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans under the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act (SARA).  SARA (Section 37) requires the competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed extirpated, endangered or threatened species.  The sea otter was listed as Threatened under SARA in June 2003.  The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) recently reassessed the sea otter population as Special Concern in April 2007.  Consideration of a change to the legal listing of sea otters under SARA based on the reassessment will proceed through the regular SARA listing process.

The Province of British Columbia has jurisdiction for fur bearing animals and threatened and endangered species in British Columbia (BC) under the BC Wildlife Act and has jurisdiction over the use of seabed and foreshore under the BC Land Act.  Aquaculture facilities are subject to licensing under the BC Fisheries Act.  Under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, Parks Canada Agency will have involvement in sea otter management and protection in National Marine Conservation Areas (NMCAs) as sea otters recover in to these areas.  The Province of BC and Parks Canada have cooperated in the development of this recovery strategy. 

Fisheries & Oceans Canada formed the Sea Otter Recovery Team (Section 4) in 2002 to develop a sea otter recovery strategy.  In 2007, the recovery strategy was updated to meet the requirements of SARA (this document). 

This proposed recovery strategy meets SARA requirements (Sections 39-41) in terms of content and process and covers the period 2007-2012, pending a change to the legal listing.

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