Northern Sea Otter (SW AK popn.)
(Enhydra lutris kenyoni)
In compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) must designate critical habitat for each species under its jurisdiction listed under the ESA. Critical habitat is defined as “specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species at the time of listing, if they contain physical or biological features essential to conservations, and those features may require special management considerations for protection” and “specific areas outside the geographical area occupied by the species if the agency determines that the area itself is essential for conservation.”
The critical habitat designated in 2009 for the Southwest Alaska population of northern sea otters encompasses about 15,000 km2. This critical habitat is broken into 5 units: Western Aleutian, Eastern Aleutian, South Alaska Peninsula, Bristol Bay, and Kodiak, Kamishak, and Alaska Peninsula. The critical habitat designation was based largely on the presence of shallow, rocky areas, the presence of nearshore waters to serve as refuge, the presence of kelp forests, and sufficient prey resources to support sea otter populations. Detailed maps of the critical habitat designations can be found at the USFWS website.