Reports & Publications

Double-Crested Cormorants

Double-crested cormorants, Phalcrocorax auritus, qualify for protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations. The migratory bird species protected by the Act are listed in 50 CFR 10.13.

As part of ongoing efforts to address conflicts between double-crested cormorants and wild and stocked fisheries, the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a  final rule on December 29, 2020, which establishes a new special double-crested cormorant permit under §21.28 in the Code of Federal Regulations. The rule takes effect on Feb. 12, 2021. For more information, please see our  special cormorant website.

Older Updates
December 22, 2020: The Service issued its  Record of Decision, or ROD, which documents the decision of the Service for the selection of an alternative for managing conflicts associated with cormorants.

November 20th, 2020: The Service announced the publication of a  Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), pursuant to the NEPA. The  FEIS was available for public review for 30 days, ending on December 21, 2020.

June 5th, 2020: The Service published a  draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), pursuant to NEPA, along with a draft rule The comment period for each continued for 45 days, ending on July 20th, 2020.

January 22, 2020: The Service, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services, initiated the rulemaking process with the publication of  Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR; 85 FR 3601) and announced its intent to prepare a NEPA document (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) This notice stated that the Service intended to establish new regulations regarding the management of conflicts associated with double-crested cormorants.

December 19, 2019: To meet increased needs at aquaculture facilities, we are increasing the annual maximum allowable take of double-crested cormorants through individual depredation permits from 51,571 to 74,396 per year. This level of authorized take will maintain a stable cormorant population at levels as considered current in the 2017 Environmental Assessment.

We will ensure cormorants are managed responsibly and in compliance with federal laws and regulations while balancing economic development, human health and safety, endangered species management and other priorities. We will assess cormorant survey data and update the PTL at least every 10 years, and publish a notice in the Federal Register if we determine take of double-crested cormorants should be changed again.

 Federal Register notice
 Depredation permit

To learn more about obtaining a permit, please contact your regional permit office.

August of 2018: Since the EA was published in 2017, the Service has engaged state fish and wildlife agencies, tribes and other federal partners in addressing the cormorant-fish conflict, highlighted by four workshops in August, 2018.

The objectives of the workshops were to: (1) gather available information and data regarding the impacts cormorants have on free-swimming fish populations; (2) better understand the scope and magnitude of cormorant impacts on recreational and commercial fishing; (3) better understand the social and economic importance of the issue; and (4) serve as a model process for addressing avian predation conflicts with other species.

A report summarizing the outcome of these workshops was released in March 2019, and is available below. The Service will continue to build a solid foundation for any science-based management options to sustainably manage cormorant populations while reducing conflicts with free-swimming fish.

 Double-crested Cormorants and Free Swimming Fish Meeting Summary (2.9MB)

November 14, 2017: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the completion of an environmental assessment (EA) and finding of no significant impact (FONSI), which addresses the potential impacts of issuing individual permits for the annual take (i.e., lethal removal) of up to 51,571 double-crested cormorants, across 37 central and eastern States and the District of Columbia. The scope of the EA is to issue permits to manage cormorant damage at aquaculture facilities, protect human health and safety, protect threatened and endangered wildlife, and alleviate damage to property.

The EA serves as a framework for the Service to make timely decisions on individual depredation permit applications submitted pursuant to 50 CFR 21.41 for the lethal take of cormorants. Based on the scope and environmental consequences identified in the EA, the Service will evaluate each permit application that we receive on an individual basis. We will also conduct a tiered review under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and produce a finding identifying whether any additional actions or assessments are needed.

 Cormorant environmental assessment (EA) (1007.5KB)
 Cormorant finding of no significant impact (FONSI) (117.1KB)
 Federal Register notice
 News Bulletin

Last Updated: January 11, 2021