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April 24, 2000 Contact: Tom MacKenzie 404/ 679-7291

Chris Tollefson 202-208-5634


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that it will hold a series of public meetings in cities across the country to discuss concerns raised by increasing populations of double-crested cormorants and to solicit public comments on potential management options as the Service develops a nationwide strategy for managing the birds.

The Service will host ten (10) separate meetings at sites across the country to discuss the scope of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will be developed to guide the agency=s management decisions involving cormorants. A notice detailing the times and locations of these meetings was published today in the Federal Register.

The EIS will evaluate the species' status, impacts on other resources, and potential management strategies. The document will also consider the administrative, logistical, and socio-economic impacts of various management strategies.

"Conflicts between cormorants and humans are increasing in many parts of the country, and we need to hear from the people who are most affected as we develop a long-term strategy for managing these birds," said Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark. "The scoping process provides an opportunity for the public to help guide this strategy."

Cormorants have been federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act since 1972, when they were given protection after their populations dropped precipitously due to use of the pesticide DDT, human persecution and the overall declining health of many ecosystems, especially that of the Great Lakes. Today, the population is at historic highs, due in large part to the presence of ample food in their summer and winter ranges, federal and state protection, and reduced contaminant levels.

From 1970-1991, in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, the number of double-crested cormorant nests increased from 89 to 38,000, with an average annual increase of 29 percent. By 1997, the Great lakes population had reached approximately 93,000 pairs. The total population of double-crested cormorants in the U.S. and Canada has most recently been estimated

The population resurgence of double-crested cormorants has led to increasing concern about the birds' impact on commercial and recreational fishery resources. Cormorants and other waterbirds such as pelicans and herons can have adverse impacts on fish populations when fish are concentrated in artificially high numbers - conditions such as those found at fish farms, hatcheries, and sites where hatchery-reared fish are released.

Because cormorants are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, their nests and eggs cannot be disturbed, and birds cannot be captured or killed unless a depredation permit is obtained from the Service. Since 1972, depredation permits allowing the take of double-crested cormorants have been authorized on a case-by-case basis, usually when negative impacts on aquaculture stocks or private property have been demonstrated. In 1998, the Service issued a Depredation Order permitting take of double-crested cormorants at aquacultural facilities and state-operated hatcheries in 13 states in response to economic losses caused by cormorant depredation. Federal take permits (State permits are also required) for birds causing depredation problems at commercial fish hatcheries and aquaculture operations located outside the 13 states are typically issued only after non-lethal methods of control have been shown to be ineffective. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services program, a cooperating agency in the development of the EIS, is responsible for documenting economic losses and for recommending possible bird-control measures.

The effect of cormorants on fish populations in open waters is less clear than at aquaculture facilities. Studies conducted worldwide have shown that while cormorants can, and often do, take fish species that are valued in commercial and sport fisheries, those species usually make up a very small proportion of the birds' diet. Those studies suggest that cormorants are not a significant source of mortality affecting fish populations.

More information about cormorants can be found on the Service web site at: http://migratorybirds.fws.gov/issues/cormorant/cormorant.html

Ten public scoping meetings will be held in the following cities, at the announced locations and times:

Washington, D.C. April 25, Dept. of the Interior bldg. Main Auditorium, 1849 C St., N.W., 10 a.m.

Portland, Ore. April 27, Red Lion Hotel Coliseum, 1225 N. Thunderbird Way, 7 p.m.

Burlington, Ver. May 9, Clarion Hotel and Convention Center, 1117 Williston Road, 7 p.m.

Watertown, N.Y. May 10, Dulles State Office Building auditorium, 317 Washington St., 7 p.m.

Syracuse, N.Y. May 11, Carousel Center Mall, Skydeck, 6th level, 9090 Carousel Center Dr., 7 p.m.

Green Bay, Wisc. May 15, at the Ramada Inn, 2750 Ramada Way, 7p.m.

Mackinaw City, Mich. May 16, Mackinaw City Public Schools gym, 609 West Central, 7 p.m.

Hauppage, N.Y. May 17, Windham Watch Hotel, 1717 Vanderbilt Motor Pkwy, 7 p.m.

Jackson, Miss. May 22, Primos Northgate, Convention Hall B, 4330 N. State St., 7 p.m.

Athens, Texas May 23, Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, 5550 Farm Market Rd., 7 p.m.

In addition to providing verbal comments at these meetings, the public can also submit written comments either electronically or by mail. Written comments should be addressed to the Chief, Office of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Dr., Arlington, VA 22203. Comments submitted via email should include the author's complete mailing address and can be sent to the following address: cormorant_eis@fws.gov. All written comments on the scope of the EIS should be submitted by June 16, 2000. For further information contact the Office of Migratory Bird Management, (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 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 520 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 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 that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

Release #: N00-005

2000 News Releases




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