Photo: Sea otters before the Senate

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, right, waits with a sea otter pelt to testify on Senate Bill 60 before the Senate Resources Committee at the Capitol on Wednesday. The bill, which Stedman introduced last month, would authorize a $100 bounty from the state to any individual who legally harvests a sea otter. Sea otters are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and may only be harvested by Native hunters for “subsistence” purposes, and Stedman acknowledged Wednesday that a preliminary legal opinion of his bill suggests it conflicts with the federal law. He told senators at the hearing that he wants to start a conversation on how to manage booming sea otter populations in Southeast Alaska, which Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials blame for the decline of crab, shellfish and marine invertebrate fisheries.

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