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Although sea otters (Enhydra lutris) have been a relatively insignificant resource in Alaska during the twentieth century, the situation is changing. Remnant populations that recolonized most of their historic range are becoming recognized as a potentially valuable economic resource and as a competitor with some important shellfish fisheries. It is appropriate that sea otters should again become an important Alaskan resource because they were so significant in the initial exploration and settlement of Alaska by non-natives. In this paper I review changes in distribution and population abundance since 1740, recent changes in human attitudes toward sea otters, and review our understanding of the biological characteristics of sea otters that are particularly important to managing populations.