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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.
On 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.
Update! 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.