Our Advocacy program works to protect marine life and freshwater species by preventing bacteria, metals, and trash from spilling into L.A. County waterways, and eventually our ocean. This part of our advocacy program works closely with our litigation team to protect L.A. County Areas of Special Biological Significance, advocate for the removal of the “No Otter Zone,” and hold polluters accountable to their federal Clean Water Act permits.
Areas of Special Biological Significance
In order to protect and restore fragile and biologically rich ecosystems along our coast, the State of California designated 34 special marine reserves called “Areas of Special Biological Significance” (ASBS). ASBS are areas requiring protection of species or biological communities through maintaining high water quality. For 40 years, protective regulations for these special areas have helped play a role in halting offshore drilling in California, and in creating California’s network of Marine Protected Areas — our “national parks in the sea.”
Our Litigation team, together with NRDC, filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County for discharging waste into bodies of water from the Mugu Lagoon to Latigo Point Area of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) – a marine coastal reserve in Northern Los Angeles County. In 2010, the federal district court in Los Angeles found LA County liable for illegally discharging pollution in these areas, which is a huge step in keeping our ASBS waters clean and safe. Now, we are continuously working to keep these ASBS protections strong.
Southern Sea Otter
Historically, sea otters occupied the entire northern Pacific coastline in populations estimated between 150,000 and 300,000. In the 18th and 19th centuries, sea otters were aggressively hunted by humans for their luxurious pelts. By the early 1900s sea otters were thought to be extinct from California. Since then, efforts have been made to help sea otter populations rebound; however, populations today (less than 3,000) are still a small fraction of what they used to be.
In December 2012, the US Fish & Wildlife Service terminated the “no otter zone”, allowing the California sea otter to return to our coastal waters under the full protection of the Endangered Species Act. Los Angeles Waterkeeper is a key advocate for terminating the “no otter zone”, and our Kelp Project is currently working to restore our underwater ecosystem that has been so negatively affected by the absence of the sea otter. In July 2013, the California Sea Urchin Commissions, together with other fishing industry interest groups, filed a lawsuit challenging the removal of the “no otter zone”, claiming that the sea otter will eat the marine life that they catch for business. As a result of this, we have filed a petition to intervene in the case in an effort to defend our marine ecosystem and ensure that the “no otter zone” will be removed.