Please Remember Sea Otters on Tax Day!

The sea otters that live off the coast of California are in trouble. As many or more adults die each year as there are young otters that survive to adulthood. The reasons for this are several and not totally understood, but quite a few are the result of things people do, or put into the ocean, one way or another.

When you pay your California State Income Taxes you have the opportunity to donate a few dollars (or more) to the Sea Otter Fund (Form 540…..line 410). The State Franchise Tax Board collects the donations and takes 10% for administration of the fund. Then, the contributions are split equally between two programs, one administered by the California Coastal Conservancy (CCC) and one by the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG).

The majority of the funds going to CDFG support investigations focused on determining what is killing sea otters, how that may be related to human activities, and what can be done about it. That program is centered at the Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center and is under CDFG’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR). A slightly dated but still useful look at this work can be found at A small portion goes to public outreach, to make sure you know what is going on.

The Coastal Conservancy portion of the tax check-off funds field research projects awarded on a competitive basis. Since all the sea otter conservation organizations in California have pledged to work together for recovery of sea otters as part of the Sea Otter Alliance, this makes it pretty easy. For the past 3 years these funds have supported a project comparing health and markers of health, ecology, reproduction and pup success, and other factors between sea otters living off the more pristine Big Sur coast and those living in closer proximity to people in southern Monterey Bay. Active partners in this research include California Department of Fish and Game, Monterey Bay Aquarium, U.C. Davis-School of Veterinary Medicine-Wildlife Health Center; U.C Santa Cruz-Center for Ocean Health; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geologic Survey (several program), Smithsonian Institution and many other organizations. The initial results of this work will be published soon, beginning in 2012.

During the difficult fiscal times of the last 5 years or so the Sea Otter Fund tax check-off monies have literally meant the difference between whether major portions of the work on sea otter health and recovery continued or were shut down. Tax check off funds have made a HUGE DIFFERENCE.

So, please remember sea otters when you pay your taxes, and enter a donation on line 410 on your Form 540 tax report. The sea otters will thank you.

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About is dedicated to raising awareness about California's threatened sea otters and the role research plays in the species recovery and conservation. It's a collaboration of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, U.C. Santa Cruz, U.C. Davis, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, among others. is also home of the world's first HD live stream of southern sea otters in the wild.