Sea Otter Legalities

Region 7 of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marine Mammals Management is the arm of the federal government mandated with managing the northern sea otter.

Take of marine mammals cannot be regulated by the federal government unless 1), it is listed as depleted under the MMPA, and 2) it can be shown that the subsistence harvest is materially and negatively affecting the population.

The Final Rule to list the Southwest Alaska Distinct Population Segment of sea otters as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) became effective September 8, 2005. This listing includes sea otters in Kamishak Bay (lower Cook Inlet) west through the Aleutians. Sea otters in western Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Alaska Peninsula, Shumagin Islands, and the Aleutian Islands are included.

Neither subsistence nor the creation and sale of handicrafts has been listed as threats to this listed population, and do not negatively affect efforts to recover the population.

With the Final Rule, a Proposed Special Rule was also published under Section 4(d) of the ESA. Based on concerns raised by TASSC and others in comments on the Proposed Rule to list SW sea otter, the USFWS developed the Special Rule under 4(d). The Special 4(d) rule applies to sea otter from the listed area. The Special Rule became effective on September 14, 2006.

The Special Rule allows sea otter subsistence activities that were occurring prior to the listing to continue. This Special Rule makes the regulations for the listed population consistent with the rules and regulations for sea otter subsistence for the rest of Alaska.

There are no federal regulations (such as seasons, harvest limits, open or closed areas, federal permits or licenses) governing the non-wasteful hunting of sea otters in Alaska by Alaska Natives. However, sea otter pelts and skulls must be tagged through the Marking, Tagging, and Reporting Program (MTRP) administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There is a network of taggers authorized to tag sea otters throughout coastal Alaska. TASSC is one of those taggers.

Some Tribes in Alaska have developed management plans, regulations and ordinances governing the take of sea otters in their area. We encourage Alaska Native hunters to check with the local Tribe to see if local Tribal regulations exist.

In summary:

  • It is legal for Alaska Natives who are 1/4 degree or more Alaska Indian, Eskimo or Aleut blood to hunt and use sea otters and sea lions (or other marine mammals).
  • It is legal to sell handicrafts made from these animals to all people.
  • Alaska Natives can sell or trade raw marine mammal parts, including unaltered tanned/untanned sea otter pelts, only to other Alaska Natives (or registered agents).
  • It is illegal to sell raw tanned or untanned sea otter pelts to anyone except other Alaska Natives or registered agents.
  • Subsistence take cannot be wasteful.
  • There are no federal hunting seasons, no harvest limits, no required federal or state licenses or permits, and no federal or state open or closed hunting areas (other than local firearm rules).

All sea otter pelts must be tagged within 30 days or risk fines up to $10,000 per item and/or seizure of the parts. If you have pelts needing to be tagged, you may contact TASSC at 800.474.4362 or 907.286.2377 or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 800.362.5148 or 907.786.3800 for information on Sea Otter Tagger Locations.

List of 2020 Taggers by village

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