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Service Releases Final Environmental Impact Statement on Double-Crested Cormorant Management


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 11, 2003

Contact:
Nicholas Throckmorton, 202-208-5636

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the management of double-crested cormorants in the United States. The document analyzes various options for managing rapidly growing cormorant populations to reduce resource conflicts. Cormorants have been documented to have negative impacts on resources such as commercial aquaculture, recreational fisheries, vegetation, and the habitat of other colonially-nesting birds. The preferred alternative in this EIS will give local authorities a more active role in double-crested cormorant management. Next week, the Environmental Protection Agency will publish a mandatory notice in the Federal Register, marking the beginning of a 30-day comment period on the EIS. After this period, the Service will publish a final rule and record of decision.

The EIS evaluates six management alternatives including continuing current management practices, implementing only non-lethal management techniques, issuing depredation permits with more flexible criteria, issuing a “public resource depredation order” to address public resource conflicts, reducing regional cormorant populations, and establishing frameworks for a cormorant hunting season. The Service believes a “public resource depredation order”will be the most effective alternative.

“Since populations are increasing and cormorants have been shown to cause localized impacts to natural and economic resources, we believe local management is the best approach to reduce conflicts,” said Service Director Steve Williams.

Under the EIS’s preferred alternative, a new “public resource depredation order” will authorize States, Tribes, and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to manage and control double-crested cormorants to protect public resources (fish, wildlife, plants, and habitats). The order applies to 24 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin). Agencies acting under the order must have landowner permission, may not adversely affect other migratory bird species or threatened and endangered species and must satisfy annual reporting and evaluation requirements. The Service will ensure the long-term conservation of cormorant populations through annual assessments of agency reports and through regular population monitoring.

In 1998, the Service issued an aquaculture depredation order authorizing commercial freshwater aquaculture producers in 13 States (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) to shoot double-crested cormorants without a federal depredation permit when the birds were found committing or about to commit depredations to aquaculture stocks. Under the EIS’s preferred alternative, the Service will modify the aquaculture depredation order to allow control of cormorants at winter roosts near fish farms and to allow fish hatcheries to protect their stock from cormorant predation.

Cormorants have been federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act since 1972 after their populations dropped precipitously due to factors such as the use of the pesticide DDT. Today, the population is at historic highs in many areas due in large part to the presence of ample food in their summer and winter ranges, federal and state protection, and reduced contaminant levels. The total estimated population of double-crested cormorants in North America is approximately 2 million birds.
Requests for copies of, or comments on, the EIS may be mailed to the Division of Migratory Bird Management, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MBSP-4107, Arlington, Virginia 22203. In addition, comments/requests may be submitted by email to: cormorants@fws.gov, or via fax at 703/358-2272. The Final EIS can also be downloaded from the Division of Migratory Bird Management web site at: http://migratorybirds.fws.gov/issues/cormorant/cormorant.html. For further information, call the division at 703/358-1714.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 542 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

 




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