Cormorants too often get a unfair rap, unfairly maligned by fishermen who blame them for collapsing fish stocks and by waterfront residents who see their congregations as smelly or menacing. Maybe it’s only among birders that these admittedly ungainly and conventionally unattractive birds get their proper due. Where others see trouble, we see adept fishers. Where others see whitewashed seaside cliffs, we see evidence of a robust fishery. And where policy-makers too often see the cause of declining game fish populations, we see a bird blamed for pollution, habitat loss, and poor management of waterways.
It’s happening again in Oregon, this time on East Seal Island in the Lower Columbia River estuary. In a story we’ve heard before, Double-crested Cormorants are being blamed for the declining populations of endangered salmon, with the Army Corp of Engineers planning on culling some 16,000 birds from the colony there. It’s a significant proportion of the breeding population in the western United States. While the cormorants there are no doubt helping themselves to salmon that run up the Columbia River, as they have for millennia, the fish populations are far more impacted by factors not related to cormorant predation.
Our friends at National Audubon have put together a petition to urge the Corp to hold off on the cull until such time that the methods for non-lethal, evidence based management can be fully examined (called Alternative A, here).
Please consider signing the petition. The science behind the effectiveness of these culls is far from settled, and while Double-crested Cormorants are not an endangered species by any means, the precedent of pursuing lethal management of native wildlife is one that should only be considered carefully. Thanks for your help!