October 8, 2003
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released a Final Rule and Record of Decision that will allow more flexibility in the control of double-crested cormorants in areas where they are causing damage to aquaculture and public resources such as fisheries, vegetation, and other birds.
The rule expands the aquaculture depredation order, which has been in place in 13 States since 1998, to allow USDA Wildlife Services to conduct winter roost control. It also establishes a public resource depredation order to allow State wildlife agencies, Tribes, and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, to conduct cormorant control for the protection of public resources in 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). Without these depredation orders, agencies and individuals would need a Federal permit to control cormorants.
Double-crested cormorants are colonial waterbirds whose numbers have increased substantially in the past 30 years. They can cause localized, but sometimes significant, negative impacts on resources such as commercial aquaculture, recreational fisheries, vegetation, and the habitat of other colonial nesting birds.
“Since cormorants cause localized impacts to natural and economic resources, we believe local management is the best approach to reduce conflicts,” said Service Director Steve Williams.
Agencies acting under the depredation 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 regular population monitoring.
The rule also modifies the 1998 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. This added authority applies only to the original 13 States (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) and, in the case of roost control, may be conducted only by officials of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services.
While cormorant populations were dramatically affected by such things as 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 and reduced contaminant levels. The total estimated population of double-crested cormorants in North America is approximately two million birds.
Requests for copies of the final rule, Record of Decision or the FEIS should be mailed to the Division of Migratory Bird Management, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MBSP-4107, Arlington, Virginia 22203. The final rule, and other related documents, 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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