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GLIN==> SERVICE WILL PREPARE NATIONWIDE CORMORANT MANAGEMENT PLAN
- Subject: GLIN==> SERVICE WILL PREPARE NATIONWIDE CORMORANT MANAGEMENT PLAN
- From: Rich_Greenwood@fws.gov
- Date: Mon, 8 Nov 1999 12:08:29 -0600
- List-Name: GLIN-Announce
--------------- cc:Mail Forwarded ---------------
From: NEWS@fws.gov AT FWS
Date: 11/08/99 10:30 AM
To: firstname.lastname@example.org AT FWS
Subject: SERVICE WILL PREPARE NATIONWIDE CORMORANT MANAGEMENT PLAN
November 8, 1999
Chris Tollefson 202-208-5634
SERVICE WILL PREPARE NATIONWIDE CORMORANT MANAGEMENT PLAN
Responding to increasing concerns about the possible effect of
double-crested cormorant populations on recreational fishing, habitat and
other migratory birds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced
that it will develop a comprehensive national cormorant management plan.
The Service published a notice in today's Federal Register of
intent to write an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
the species' status, known and perceived impacts on other resources, and
potential management strategies. The plan will
consider the administrative, logistical, and socio-economic
of various management strategies.
"The Service's responsibility is to maintain healthy cormorant populations
across the nation. Our goal is to determine what effects current and
projected cormorant populations may be
on commercial and recreational fisheries, and to use the best science
available to direct future management," said Service Director Jamie
The Service will evaluate management alternatives in the EIS,
on comments received during a public scoping process that
with today's publication of a Notice of Intent. As part of
process, the Service will host public meetings at sites across
country to gather public input on potential options. Dates, locations and
times of the meetings have not yet been
but will be published in a future Federal Register notice.
Potential management alternatives range from continuing present policies to
implementing large-scale population control
breeding grounds, wintering grounds, and migration areas in the United
Populations of double-crested cormorants declined dramatically during the
1950s and 1960s from the effects of human
the pesticide DDT and the overall declining health of many ecosystems,
especially that of the Great Lakes. Today, the population is at historic
highs, due in large part to the presence of ample food in their summer and
and state protection, and reduced contaminant levels.
The Interior population of cormorants, which includes the Great
encompasses 61 percent of the nation's breeding cormorants and
is the fastest growing of the six major North American cormorant breeding
>From 1970-1991, in the Great Lakes region of the United States
and Canada, the number of
double-crested cormorant nests increased from 89 to 38,000, an average
annual increase of 29 percent. For the contiguous
States as a whole, the breeding population increased at an
rate of 6.1 percent per year from 1966-1994, and now stands at
approximately 372,000 breeding pairs. Using estimates of one
four non-breeding birds per breeding pair yields an estimated
population of between one and two million birds.
The population resurgence of double-crested cormorants has
led to increasing concern about the birds' impact on commercial
recreational fishery resources. Cormorants and other
such as pelicans and herons can have adverse impacts on fish populations at
fish farms, hatcheries, and sites where
reared fish are released- situations in which fish are
in artificially high densities. Because cormorants are
by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, their nests and eggs cannot
disturbed, and birds cannot be captured or killed unless a depredation
permit is obtained from the Service.
Since 1972, depredation permits allowing the take of
cormorants have been authorized on a case-by-case basis,
when negative impacts on aquaculture operations and habitat
been demonstrated. Federal take permits (State permits are also
required) for birds causing depredation problems
at commercial fish hatcheries and other aquaculture operations
typically issued only after non-lethal methods of control have
shown to be ineffective. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife
Services Division is responsible for documenting
losses and for recommending possible bird-control measures.
In 1998, the Service issued a Depredation Order permitting take
double-crested cormorants at aquacultural facilities in 13
in response to economic losses caused by cormorant
depredation. To take cormorants under this depredation order,
aquaculturalists must first obtain certification from Wildlife Services
that a cormorant depredation problem exists, that they have employed
non-lethal techniques to control cormorant depredation, that non-lethal
controls have not been effective,
that lethal control is warranted. The effect of cormorants on
populations in open waters is less clear than at
aquaculture facilities. Studies conducted worldwide have repeatedly shown
that while cormorants can, and often do, take
species that are valued in commercial and sport fisheries, those species
usually comprise a very small proportion of the birds' diet. One study
found that the amount of these fish
consumed by cormorants in natural situations totals much less
10 percent (generally less than 5 percent) of the quantity
by commercial or sport anglers.
However, research has not yet established conclusively whether cormorants
have the ability to deplete local populations of
like perch, bass, and walleye pike. It is plausible that this
occur, and the Service is keeping an open mind on the subject
begins the EIS. More information about cormorants, and a copy
the Notice of Intent to write an EIS, can be found on the
web site at http://www.fws.gov/r9mbmo/issues/cormorant/cormorant.html.
"This process offers us a chance to examine the scientific
and reach a consensus about the future management of these birds.
I urge everyone concerned to make their voices heard as we
this document," Clark said.
Written comments on the scope of the EIS should be submitted to
Chief, Office of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and
Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Dr., Room 634, Arlington, VA 22203. Comments may
also be submitted electronically to the following address:
email@example.com. Public comments will be
for at least 60 days. The Service will publish the closing
for public comments at the time it announces details of public scoping
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal
responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing
of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National
Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500
wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands,
and other special management areas. It also operates 66
fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance
and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal
wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory
bird populations, restores nationally
fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and
helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also
oversees the Federal Aid program that
hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting
equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANT QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q. What is a double-crested cormorant?
A. The double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) is a long-lived,
colonial-nesting waterbird native to North America.
of 38 species of cormorants worldwide, and one of six species
North America, it is usually found in flocks, and is sometimes confused
with geese or loons when on the water.
Q. Where do they live?
A. Double-crested cormorants can be found in many locations throughout
North America. They nest along the coast from
Alaska to Mexico, and on lakes from central Alberta, James Bay
Newfoundland, south along the coast to the Gulf of Mexico.
the Pacific coast and the southern Atlantic coast, populations
resident year-round. Cormorants spread from the interior of
America into the Great Lakes between 1913 and the early 1930s.
Great Lakes basin population migrates along the Atlantic coast
Mississippi River drainage, to overwinter in the southeastern
states and Gulf of Mexico, returning north in April.
Q. How do they nest?
A. Cormorants breed in colonies ranging from several pairs to a
thousand. They build their nests of twigs and branches
April, usually in trees or on the ground, on islands favored
by other colonial nesting birds, like great blue herons, great egrets,
black-crowned night-herons, cattle egrets, gulls, and terns. At age three
or four, adults are ready to breed. Eggs
laid in mid-to-late April, and hatching occurs approximately 25 days later.
A typical nest has two or three chicks. These
can fly at 5-6 weeks and accompany adults to feed at 7 weeks.
are independent of the adult birds at 10 weeks.
Q. What about their population?
A. The size of the North American breeding population of the double-crested
cormorant has been estimated at about 372,000
or 852 colonies. Using values of one to four non-breeding
per breeding pair yields an estimated total population of 1-2 million
birds. The double-crested cormorant breeds widely throughout much of the
coastal and interior portions of the
States. It has been found breeding in 46 of the 48 contiguous United
States. However, it is not uniformly distributed across
broad area. Sixty-one percent of the breeding birds belong to
Interior population and it is the fastest growing of the six
North American breeding populations. From 1970-1991, in the
Lakes region (American and Canadian), which lies within the
of the Interior population, the number of double- crested
nests increased from 89 to 38,000, an average annual increase
percent. For the contiguous United States as a whole, the
population increased at an average rate of 6.1 percent per year from
Q. Will the population continue to increase?
A. The total population will probably continue to increase in
short term. In the long term, the population will likely
and then stabilize due to disease, lack of available nesting habitat, or
changes in food resources. Because cormorants are
typically preyed upon by other species, their populations are regulated
primarily by these other factors.
Q. What do double-crested cormorants eat?
A. They eat fish. Adults eat an average of one pound per day, usually
comprised of small (less than 6 inch) bottom dwelling
schooling "forage" fish. They are opportunistic and generalist feeders,
preying on many species of fish, but concentrating on those that are
easiest to catch. Because the ease with which a
can be caught depends on a number of factors (distribution, relative
abundance, behavior, etc.), the composition of a cormorant's diet can vary
considerably from site to site and throughout the year.
Q. Do double-crested cormorants eat brown and lake trout, steelhead, and
A. Yes, particularly when they are small. Recently stocked
of hatchery fish of these species are most at risk. Cormorants
attracted to these fish, as are large predatory sport fish.
these stocked fish disperse in the lake, they are much less
to be eaten by a cormorant. In fact, fish species valued by
and commercial anglers make up a very small proportion of the cormorant's
diet in open lake waters. Additional research will
scientists learn more about this important issue.
Q. Do double-crested cormorants significantly affect fish populations in
A. This is an important question without a definitive answer at this time.
The perception among anglers in some locations is
cormorants are to blame for decreases in catch. However,
to dietary studies of cormorants on New York's Oneida Lake,
resident and migrating birds can diminish the number of
size walleye pike and yellow perch available to anglers, but overall,
cormorants are not a threat to the continued viability
these fish populations. On Lake Champlain, studies indicate
and white perch are the main prey species for cormorants.
the effect of this predation on these populations is not known. Also, a
nationwide survey of state fish and wildlife agencies conducted in 1996-97
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did
reveal situations where cormorants are depleting sport fish populations.
The Service has conducted an extensive review of published studies, most of
which indicate that fish species
by sport and commercial anglers comprise a very small
the cormorant's diet.
However, studies conducted last year by the New York State Department of
Environmental Conservation and the U.S.
Survey implicate predation by double-crested cormorants in the decline of
smallmouth bass in the eastern basin of Lake Ontario.
Those studies constitute the first scientific evidence provided
the Agency suggesting any significant effects in open waters of cormorant
predation on a sportfish species. In light of these studies, it is
plausible that cormorants can have an effect on populations.
Q. Do double-crested cormorants eat the bait or forage fish required by
sport fish to survive?
A. Yes, they eat the same bait or forage fish consumed by sport fish like
trout, salmon, walleye pike and bass. A variety of research conducted in
the Great Lakes suggests that cormorants consume less than 10 percent of
the total amount of forage fish available. This consumption has not been
demonstrated to affect sport fish populations. Recent research in Lake Erie
all the forage fish consumed by cormorants amounted to only
one percent of the forage fish needed to support populations of walleye
pike, a valuable sport fish. Cormorants are only one of many factors, such
as water quality, aquatic habitat, other
predation, and angler catch, that can affect forage fish populations.
Q. Are cormorants protected in the U.S.?
A. Yes, double-crested cormorants are one of approximately 800 species
protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act
1918, and subsequent amendments. This act was first passed to implement the
terms of the convention between the U.S. and
Britain (on behalf of Canada) for the protection of migratory birds.
Excessive market hunting of migratory birds prompted
convention, which was later followed by conventions with
Japan, and Russia. Cormorants were first protected through an amendment to
the Mexican convention in 1972. Because cormorants
not a part of the U.S. and Great Britain convention, they are
protected by the federal Canadian government, and receive protection there
only at the provincial level.
Q. Does the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service control the number
double-crested cormorants when they cause damage?
A. In part. The Service's primary means in limiting
cormorants is through the issuance of depredation permits under
Migratory Bird Treaty Act. These permits enable others to take cormorants
and/or their eggs and nests in order to alleviate damage. Such permits are
issued only after the landowner or management authority has applied for a
permit, has demonstrated that damage has occurred, and has tried a variety
of non-lethal management activities which have proven ineffective on their
own. Before issuing a permit, the Service determines that any
takes have a reasonable chance of resolving the damage, and
the takes will not have a significant negative impact on the migratory bird
As a landowner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could
control of cormorants on Service-owned lands--like National Wildlife
Refuges. If this were determined necessary to protect endangered or
threatened species, or other species of
concern, the Service could do this under the authority of the Migratory
Bird Treaty Act. The Service would not normally
cormorant management activities on other public or private lands.
A. Landowners are the persons most often responsible for taking migratory
birds causing damage to their private property. They
do so only after obtaining a depredation permit from the Service.
Alternatively, wildlife management authorities can apply for a permit.
Typically state fish and wildlife agencies apply for depredation permits to
take migratory birds causing damage to public resources, including other
natural resources such as endangered species.
Q. What is the role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture?
A. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services
is responsible for providing federal leadership in managing problems caused
by wildlife. USDA/Wildlife Services provides assistance to agencies,
organizations, and individuals in
wildlife damage problems on both public and private lands, including
National Wildlife Refuges. They provide
first for a variety of non-lethal management options, including harassment
and habitat alteration. If these activities prove ineffective, the
USDA/Wildlife Services may recommend a limited lethal take of migratory
birds to supplement the non-lethal management activities. Before the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife
issues permits for lethal depredation activities to a
wildlife damage report must be submitted by the USDA/Wildlife Services in
support of this recommendation. In addition to consultation, this agency
also works under privately funded cooperative agreements to implement
damage management programs
public and private lands.
Q. How are the state fish and wildlife agencies involved?
A. The state agencies oversee on-the-ground management of
in their states. In the case of federally protected species,
as cormorants, any lethal takes must also be done under the jurisdiction of
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or
In the Great Lakes basin, the States of New York and Vermont
received depredation permits for cormorant control activities involving
nest and egg destruction. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued these
permits upon the recommendations of the USDA/Wildlife Services to reduce
competition with other
waterbirds, including common terns and black-crowned night herons.
In addition, New York has received authority to shoot
fish stocking sites in Lake Ontario. On Oneida Lake, New York
also working with USDA/Wildlife Services to harass cormorants
the lake during the fall migration.
The states have also begun assessing the cormorant-fishery
a larger scale. Recently, the state agencies in the Great Lakes sponsored
workshops on cormorant-fishery issues, in
with the USDA/Wildlife Services and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. On
Lake Champlain, the States of Vermont and New York,
cooperation with USDA/Wildlife Services, have completed an Environmental
Assessment to further guide their lake-wide
Q. Does the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently issue depredation
permits for cormorant control in order to protect
fish in open waters, or the local economy supported by sport or commercial
A. No. The Service issues depredation permits only when control
biologically justified to conserve threatened and endangered species, or
other species of management concern, to protect property interests on
private or public land, and to preserve
health and safety. The Service will continue to consider
depredation permits to state fish and wildlife agencies for controlling
cormorants taking fish during stocking, when other stocking methods have
proven ineffective. However, once these
are free-ranging, the Service will not issue permits for taking cormorants
feeding in natural environments.
Q. Does the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently allow the control of
double-crested cormorants at aquacultural facilities?
A. Yes. Since 1998, the Service has permitted the killing,
federal permits, of double-crested cormorants at aquaculture facilities in
12 Southeast states and in Minnesota when
methods are ineffective in preventing depredation. Aquaculture producers in
other states must apply for and operate under a federal permit to control
cormorants if a need is demonstrated.
Q. Has the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service taken other actions
manage double-crested cormorants in addition to issuing
A. Yes. The Service has periodically funded population surveys
coordination with states and the Canadian Wildlife Service to monitor the
species throughout the Great Lakes basin. The
has also funded and conducted food habit studies in order to determine the
diet of cormorants at different locations in the Great Lakes, as well as a
range-wide status assessment of the
Lakes cormorant population in order to gather the biological information
needed to develop a management plan.
Q. What will be in the management plan?
A. The plan will review the distribution and population status
double-crested cormorants, their positive values, damage and conflicts
associated with them. It will also provide a detailed description of
management objectives for cormorants, while describing approved measures
for reaching those objectives.
Q. How will the EIS relate to the management plan?
A. The primary purpose of the EIS is to serve as a planning and
decision-making document for federal officials, while allowing
public input into the process. The EIS process requires the
to analyze and consider a wide range of management options in developing a
management strategy, and also to respond to public comments about those
options. Once the EIS is completed, the management option chosen by the
service will form the
a detailed management plan. However, the EIS and management
processes are one and the same.
Q. When will the EIS be completed?
A. While no one can predict with certainty how long it will
prepare the EIS, the Service plans to have it completed in the spring of
2001. All efforts will be made to complete the
and issue a decision in the shortest possible amount of time.
Q. What management alternatives will be evaluated in the EIS?
A. The Service will identify a series of management
that will be evaluated in the EIS, based on public comments received during
a public scoping process that begins with the publication of a Notice of
Intent. Alternatives being
for evaluation range from continuing present policies to implementing
active management options such as harassment and
destruction or large-scale population reduction.
Q. What opportunities will there be for public comment?
A. As part of the scoping process, the Service will host public meetings at
sites across the country to discuss potential management alternatives and
to gather public comments on those alternatives or other potential remedies
proposed by the public.
Dates, locations and times of the meetings have not yet been determined,
but will be published in a future Federal Register notice.
Once the alternatives to be analyzed in the EIS are identified,
public will have an additional opportunity to comment on the
EIS. The Service will respond to all substantive issues raised
public comments on the draft before publishing a final EIS and issuing a
Written comments on the scope of the EIS may be submitted by [insert date
60 days following date of publication] to the
Office of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401
N. Fairfax Dr., Room 634, Arlington, VA 22203. Comments may also be
submitted electronically to the following address: }
Q. Can I obtain information on the Internet on double-crested cormorants
and what is being done to manage them?
A. Yes, on-line information is available at several websites:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Office of Migratory Bird
Canadian Wildlife Service: