30 September 2015
California Sea Urchin Commission, et al. v Michael Bean, et al, US District Court, Central District of California (September 18 2015) – read judgment
A Californian court has upheld the protection of marine otters over the interests of commercial fishing.
Sea otters are remarkable marine mammals who live their entire lives at sea, giving birth in the water and clutching their cubs to their bellies as they float in rafts of up to a thousand, holding hands while they sleep to avoid drifting off in the ocean’s currents. But they are not just picturesque; they are essential to the health of the seas. A main component of their diet is the ubiquitous sea urchin, which feeds on kelp. As sea otters have been hunted and killed as by-catch over the centuries, their diminishing numbers have led to the proliferation of the sea urchin population and the consequent disappearance of the kelp forests on the seabed. The damage this does to the marine ecosystem has been inestimable.
This somewhat technical judgment, made on a preliminary application for summary judgment by the fishing industry, therefore marks an important step in the judicial response to marine conservation.
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