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Cormorant Management at Oneida Lake

Posted on behalf of Rich Greenwood <rich_greenwood@smtp2.irm.r9.fws.gov>

For immediate release            
April 29, 1998         
For further information, contact Dick Dyer 413/253-8553 or Diane Pence
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service States Position on Cormorant Management 
Ronald E. Lambertson, Northeast Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, clarified the Service's position on managing
double-crested cormorants following the release today of a Cornell
University study on the impacts of cormorants on recreational perch and
walleye fisheries in Oneida Lake in New York.
The Service does not currently support control of predators, including 
cormorants, in favor of sport fishing, according to Lambertson.
"Cormorants are a natural part of the ecosystem and typically consume
only a small percentage of any fish population," explained Lambertson.
"The Service does not currently issue permits to control fish-eating
birds with the intent of reducing predation on sport fisheries in public
waters. We are, however, exploring non-lethal ways, such as harassment,
to deal with localized predation problems. The Service has issued
permits to remove birds feeding at fish stocking sites and other
aquaculture operations."
The directors of northeast fish and wildlife agencies will meet next
week in Pennsylvania with the Service, where they will discuss issues
relevant to the management of double-crested cormorants.
"Biologically based studies such as the Cornell study provide a
foundation for sound policy and management decisions for both fisheries
and migratory birds," said Lambertson.
Cormorants are protected by the federal government under the Migratory
Bird Treaty Act.  Lambertson further explained that an extensive
cormorant control program in Maine in the 1960s and 1970s to benefit
Atlantic salmon restoration efforts was largely ineffective.
Double-crested cormorant populations have increased to historically high
levels nationwide, and the Great Lakes population in particular has
grown dramatically.
According to Lambertson, the Service authorizes state wildlife agencies
to control migratory birds in local situations when the birds are
jeopardizing threatened and endangered species or other species of
concern. The Service has therefore issued permits to the New York
Department of Environmental Conservation to destroy cormorant nests on
Oneida Lake to provide nesting sites for common terns, a species listed
as threatened by the State of New York. 
The study was conducted by a Cornell University graduate student through
the New York State Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the
university. Elsewhere, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, New
York Department of Environmental Conservation, and the U.S. Department
of Agriculture's Wildlife Services have written an environmental
assessment for cormorant control on Lake Champlain, which is now
receiving public comment.