WASHINGTON (CN) – In addition to dealing with international shipping and the occasional Orca whale, sea-otters around Akun Island, Alaska soon may have to deal with construction of an air and hovercraft port.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to allow the construction even though the noise may cause the otters to avoid their normal feeding grounds and travel patterns.
The agency authorized harassment of the sea-otters incidental to construction of the port facilities in 2008, but work has not begun on the site. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and the Aleutians East Borough have asked the agency to renew the authorization for the duration of construction which is scheduled to end in 2012.
As otter populations have not changed since the first authorization letter was issued the agency is expected to renew the request for a renewal.
In Alaska, northern sea otters live in the coastal waters from southeast Alaska to the Aleutian Island chain. There are three population stocks of northern sea otters in Alaska.
Since the mid-1980s, the southwest population stock has declined by nearly 70 percent. The animals found in the Aleutian Islands have experienced the greatest declines, while the population around Rat Island, in the central Aleutian Island chain, declined by about 94 percent.
The reasons for this decline are not well understood and are under investigation. The southwestern Alaska distinct population segment of northern sea otters was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act on Aug. 9, 2005. Critical habitat for this species was designated on Oct. 8, 2009 and became effective on Nov. 9, 2009.