Recent reports from the US Fish and Wildlife Service have shown that Southern sea otter populations are once again on the decline. Unlike previous decades where overhunting and fishing were the key causes, at least 50% of otter deaths are now due to a variety of infectious diseases.
Despite the sea otter’s listing on the Endangered Species list, federal funding for sea otter research has always been very limited, and has declined considerably in the last three years. Today there is no funding to enable California Department of Fish and Game to conduct research as to why sea otters are dying and what can be done about it. Private funding, and research grants have helped, but these sources have also dried up.
For the last several years, California tax check-off funds have helped fill this funding gap. However, the number of taxpayers selecting this option in 2009 is considerably lower than it was last year at this time. Any tax check-offs that fail to bring in $250,000 get removed from the California income tax form – the Sea Otter Fund needs another $90,000 to survive.
If you have not yet paid your taxes (or if you have filed for an extension), please consider checking off the sea otter box. Even those who have already paid their California income taxes can help by submitting another tax form, checking the box, and enclosing a check. This will send a clear message to the Franchise Tax Board that Californians want to save their sea otters and preserve their tax check-off options.