KCBS_740 SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit by commercial fishermen that challenges the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to do away with an otter-free zone in Southern California coastal waters.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday the 2013 lawsuit was filed in time and not outside the statute of limitations.

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The ruling overturned a lower court decision dismissing the suit and sent the case back down for an evaluation of its merits.

A call to the fish and wildlife service was not immediately returned.

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The otter-free zone was part of a program that aimed to establish a new colony of sea otters to restore the animal’s decimated population.

Federal officials scrapped the program after determining it wasn’t helping the species recover. Fishing groups sued.

Sea otters prey on species that are harvested commercially.

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