By Ben Yoxon BSc
Every year 50,000 otters are killed across U.S.A and Canada for their furs (UNODC, 2016).
North American River Otters revival has been something of a success. The species was eradicated across much of the continent due to excessive hunting and thanks to restoration efforts river otters now inhabit every continental state. The presence of otters is not just a sentimental luxury. Otters occupy the top of the food chain and by inhabiting a variety of habitats, their presence indicates a clean and balanced environment. Although they are now widespread it is impossible to determine populations of otters and therefore hunting quotas are impossible to set. How can you know how many to hunt, if you don’t know how many there are in the first place?
Figure 1: Trapping and restoration of otters across U.S.A.
At what cost to the otters has this revival come?
Figure 1 shows the each State’s restoration and trapping information (Raesly, 2001). Of the 22 states that have had some degree of restoration/reintroduction programme, 16 now allow trapping. It seems as though these animals have just been restored just to allow further hunting of them. After such demise in previous years for this very reason, why allow this to happen again? Out of the 49 states, only 9 do not allow legal trapping of otters! It begs the question – were these animal restored for species survival or to allow more species to eventually be killed?
In Canada (Figure 2) every province allows the legal trapping of otters. Only Nunavut is unconfirmed due to not being able to find information.
Figure 2. Trapping of otters in Canada
American and Canadian furs are traded at big auction houses in America and Canada and the strongest markets are in China and South Korea. Manufacturing centres exist in central and NE China and South Korea. Buyers come from Beijing, Hong Kong, Japan, Germany, Italy, Greece, New York, Turkey, Toronto and the UK
One argument given to support trapping is that it helps conservation. In the Arizona Hunting Regulations it says: “the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is the world’s most successful … Hunting and angling are the cornerstones of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation … Through a 10-12% excise tax on hunting, angling, and shooting sports equipment, hunters and anglers have generated more than $10 billion towards wildlife conservation since 1937…”
This sounds impressive but if we actually look at the figures $10 billion over 70 years works out at $142,850 per year!
So is otter trapping sustainable? If we look at the figures, 10 states in USA and 2 states in Canada have no limit on the numbers trapped. In some of the states there simply is no up-to-date information on population status. If you look at Alaska the figures are from 1994 and we were told by Nevada that research is well past its due date.
So if we do not have reliable information on how many otters there are or how many are being killed then we cannot say it is sustainable. PLEASE SIGN THIS TO HELP STOP LEGAL TRAPPING OF OTTERS. https://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/takeaction/919/980/537/
United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 2016. World Wildlife Crime Report – Trafficking in protected species. United Nations Publication. p49
Elaine J. Raesly, 2001. Progress and Status of River Otter Reintroduction Projects in the United States. Wildlife Society Bulletin, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 856-862