Because sea otter fur is coveted for its density and insulating quality, sea otters were nearly hunted to extinction from the mid 1700’s to 1911 when the International Fur Seal Treaty was enacted.
The fur of sea otters was of great importance in the fur trade from the mid 1700’s to 1911. Hunting during the 18th and 19th centuries has greatly reduced the distribution of sea otters. Sea otters were hunted to near extinction (1,000 to 2,000 individuals worldwide) at until the turn of the 20th century when the United States, Russia, Japan, and Great Britain reached an agreement in 1911 called the International Fur Seal Treaty, banning the hunting of fur-bearing sea mammals. In 1972, the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act offered further protection by banning capture and harassment of sea mammals.
Sea otter fur was coveted due to its extreme density and insulating quality. Pelts sold for as much as $1,125 each and were fashioned into hats, coats, and other garments sold in Russia, Canada, and the United States.