Migratory Bird Program
Conserving the Nature of America

APPENDIX D

SUMMARY OF THE FISHERIES BREAKOUT SESSION

Bob Lange, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Chair

 

The 12 participants in the Fisheries breakout session identified 21 fisheries issues in a brainstorming process. These were then categorized into four main issues: 1) double-crested cormorant (DCC) impacts on fish populations are poorly understood; 2) cormorant impacts on water quality and the underlying ecosystem may impact fish populations; 3) cormorants create several human dimensions issues related to fisheries management; and 4) aquaculture may be impacted by double-crested cormorants. After a discussion of some of the key elements of each of these issues, seven strategies were recommended.

ISSUE 1: IMPACTS ON FISH POPULATIONS ARE POORLY UNDERSTOOD

  • Potential impacts to the forage base for game fish.
  • Impacts to hatchery stocked fish.
  • Impacts to game fish directly.
  • How might cormorants benefit game fish?
  • Impacts on fish populations in small systems versus large systems.
  • Clarify differences in impacts on simple versus complex systems.
  • Lack understanding of impacts to fish populations.
  • Understanding mortality attributed to DCC as a component of the total.
  • Is DCC-caused mortality additive or compensatory?

Note: The group did not attempt to differentiate between problems that are real vs. perceived.

SCOPE

  • Cormorant predation on stocked fish is a concern in Eastern Lake Ontario, Lake Champlain and Oneida Lake, and in lakes with landlocked salmon in New Hampshire.
  • Concern regarding game fish in Long Island Sound, Massachusetts, Rhode Island (northeast coast) winter flounder: species is under restoration efforts.
  • Smallmouth Bass in Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence River.
  • Walleye in Oneida Lake.
  • Growing DCC populations create potential for concerns in many other waters.
  • Atlantic Salmon in coastal rivers, Connecticut River, Northeast Region coastal rivers.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

  • Winter flounder - fishermen are restricted while DCC are not (perception).
  • True in any stock under restoration.
  • Fear of the unknown - cormorants are Anew,@ Aexotic,@ and future of population is unclear.

BARRIERS

  • Lack of scientific knowledge.
  • Lack of resources to gain scientific knowledge.
  • Jurisdiction barriers exist. Local problem but cormorants are federally protected.
  • Social barriers are attached to warm blooded species.
  • Large geographic scope is an impediment to solving local problems.

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Puts predator/prey interactions on a higher plane (more attention).

COMMUNICATION AND EDUCATIONAL NEEDS

  • One agency needed to coordinate communication.
  • More consistency in the message is needed.
  • Need to communicate DCC impacts in the context of total mortality (has to be understandable).
  • Need to communicate what we know, what we don=t, and what we=re learning.

KEY RESEARCH NEEDS

  • Status of fish stocks of concern.
  • More comprehensive food habits studies (marine, other than breeding).
  • What are the limiting factors on DCC populations?
  • Understanding whether DCC-induced fish mortality is additive or compensatory in the context of the total.
  • Need to better understand DCC population parameters (productivity, survivorship, dynamics).

 

ISSUE 2: WATER QUALITY ISSUES AND IMPACTS TO FISH RELATED TO CORMORANTS

  • DCC concentrations may cause water quality concerns (guano).
  • Fish diseases and parasites may be transmitted by DCC.
  • DCCs represent another pathway for fish disease transmission.

SCOPE

  • Water quality issues are generally very localized (shellfish) with high concentrations of cormorants.
  • Eastern Lake Ontario parasite issue - Brown Bullhead.
  • In Northeast, no known examples of fish disease transmission.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

  • Localized impacts can create concerns way out of proportion.
  • Some real and perceived public health, economic, recreation, risks (drinking water supplies).

BARRIERS

  • Local and State health officials= potential involvement.
  • Relationship between numbers of DCC and water quality problems unknown.
  • Social stigma of killing birds.
  • Legal protection.

COMMUNICATION AND EDUCATIONAL NEEDS

  • Obligations to inform public about health risks.

RESEARCH NEEDS

  • Better understanding of DCC potential as a vector of diseases and parasites.

 

ISSUE 3: HUMAN DIMENSIONS RELATED TO FISHERIES MANAGEMENT AND CORMORANTS

  • What criteria are needed to take a management action?
  • What impacts to fishing opportunities and to fish-related economies?
  • Is there a limited niche for cormorants in recovering aquatic ecosystems?
  • Public perception of impacts to fisheries leads to erosion of social and political support for agency programs.

SCOPE

  • Wherever there are cormorants and people.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

  • Economics and recreation are a factor.
  • Cormorant issues emphasize the conflict between politics and science-based management.
  • Emotional issue that can cause polarization.
  • Demands agency staff time at a high level.

BARRIERS

  • Lack of information (facts).
  • Poor communication among agency personnel and to the public.
  • Agency people (biologists) are not good at communicating.
  • Stakeholders are not clearly identified.
  • Competing values exist (including within agencies).

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Better communication might Afix@ a lot of the problems with involved stakeholders.

COMMUNICATION AND EDUCATIONAL NEEDS

  • Better identify stakeholders.
  • Involve professional outreach people.

KEY RESEARCH NEEDS

  • Public opinion research - public perception of DCC and their expectations of State and Federal agencies.

ISSUE 4: AQUACULTURE MAY BE IMPACTED BY CORMORANTS

  • Impacts on aquaculture facilities

SCOPE

  • Not a major concern for Northeast practitioners but could become one in the future.
  • We recognize that the aquaculture issue in the Southeast is linked to the life cycle of the double-crested cormorant, which has a major northeast component.

RECOMMENDED STRATEGIES

1. Define criteria to identify acceptable impacts of DCC on fish stocks of concern (both biological and social components).

2. Summarize what we know and communicate it.

3. Implementation of control should only be exercised where there is a known unacceptable impact based on scientific data, and monitored to evaluate effectiveness.

4. Produce a Northeast DCC fact sheet.

5. Priority should be given to the modification of stocking practices for hatchery-reared fish preyed upon by cormorants.

6. Develop and distribute guidelines for modification of fish stocking practices to mitigate DCC predation effects.

 

7. Include the Communication/Educational and Research needs identified above (during the elements of discussion session).

OTHER ISSUES RAISED

  • There is a lot of animosity towards cormorants from the public at large and Directors need to be aware of this.
  • Let=s not give administrators more reason to scapegoat cormorants.
  • The DCC experience is only one example of many changes in species abundance and distribution (globally) that we do not understand.

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Last updated: April 11, 2012