A bill that will increase the efforts to protect endangered sea otters has passed the state Assembly and Senate in California, and is on its way to Governor Schwarzenegger for Approval.
According to the Bay City News Wire, the bill would extend prohibitions on dumping harmful materials into state waters to marine animals. Currently, only fish, birds and plants are protected under the state code.
The bill would also affect the way that cat litter is disposed, as people will be encouraged to use landfills instead of wastewater flushing. The flushing of the litter releases Toxoplasma gondi, a harmful parasite, into the sea otter’s habitat.
Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) told the Bay City News Wire that 70 percent of deceased sea otters have traces of this parasite in t heir system.
The bill is backed by Jones and John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) and is sponsored by AB 2485. The assemblymen’s offices reported that the sea otter population has stagnated over the past 10 years. Currently 2,600 live along the Central California coast, down from 17,000 just decades prior. Experts fear that one large oil spill could eliminate the species entirely.
The bill would increase the state penalty for killing a sea otter to the federal penalty of $25,000. In addition, violators could face up to a year in jail.