Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Letters Needed: Cormorants at Risk!

During the past few years, tens of thousands of Double-crested Cormorants, a native North American water bird that nests in Ontario and winters in the southern United States, have been slaughtered in both the US and Canada.

Parks Canada claims that Double-crested cormorants are threatening the ecology of Middle Island in Lake Erie and that thousands of them need to be slaughtered. The Parks Canada proposal to manage them is ill-conceived, short sighted, a waste of resources and enormously cruel.

The return of cormorants, a native wildlife species, to the western Lake Erie basin and Middle Island is part of a natural process and changes in the composition of vegetation in and around bird colonies, everywhere in the world, is a sign of a vibrant, evolving natural ecosystem.

The presence of cormorants benefits other colonial waterbirds, such as herons and egrets, both of which are stable or growing on Middle Island and there is no scientific evidence that reducing or eradicating cormorants will be beneficial. In fact, culling cormorants is likely to force other bird species to vacate Middle Island.

Culls are not effective unless they are carried on indefinitely, for culls do not reduce the local area's desirability to cormorants, or its carrying capacity. Barring massive slaughter, the rate of cormorant population growth may actually accelerate in response to lethal control measures.

Cormorants are beneficial because the majority of their diet is often primarily invasive species such as alewives and round gobies, as well as other non-commercial species.

There is no way to cull cormorants humanely. Past culls in other regions have resulted in large numbers of injured and crippled birds being left to die of their wounds or starve to death, including nestlings.

Parks Canada should protect ecosystems, but they should not do so through the removal or slaughter of native wildlife species that they have arbitrarily decided are undesirable.

The claim that Double-crested cormorants on Middle Island are somehow unnatural or unwanted and that natural processes, evident in bird colonies throughout the world, need to be controlled is unscientific and irrational.

Why Kill Cormorants?

Cormorants were nearly wiped out by human persecution and pesticide poisoning, but they are in the midst of a recovery. They have returned to the Great Lakes ecosystems they inhabited in past years and are doing well, although they are not nearly as abundant as they used to be.

The angling community claims cormorants are having an adverse effect on sport fish populations and that they kill the trees they nest in. But cormorants have little, if any, effect on sport fish populations and the death of a percentage of trees in their nesting colonies is part of a natural process of succession.

Because they are fish eaters, the sport fishing industry has been quick to condemn them, just like hawks, owls, ospreys, loons, herons, egrets and other birds were in the past.

Recently, the sport fishing industry has been pressuring the Ontario government and various US state governments to drastically reduce cormorant numbers. In Ontario, tens of thousands have already been killed during their most vulnerable time - nesting season.

Scientific research has repeatedly proven that cormorants have no substantial negative ecological impact on fish populations. In fact, the majority of their diet is alewife and round goby, both introduced species that have disrupted Great Lake's ecosystems. Still, the Ontario government and other jurisdictions are continuing to kill cormorants - to pacify a small but aggressive special interest lobby.

Double-crested cormorants are being blamed for killing trees and other vegetation, so some wildlife managers want to see their numbers reduced. They want to maintain existing levels of vegetation, even though changes in vegetative cover occur in bird colonies the world over and is a natural process.

While managers propose to kill cormorants, their plans seem to ignore the fact that if habitat is available and attactive to cormorants, then the vacancies created by killing birds will only be filled by new birds. They also seem to ignore the fact that cormorants are native birds that are repopulated areas they were extirpated from in the past. Their return is a good news environmental event.

Slaughtering a native water bird species is unscientific, unethical and unnecessary. It is clearly not the best way to use the limited budgets of fish and wildlife departments or provincial and national parks.

How You Can Help

Raise this issue today with Environment Canada Minister John Baird! Let him know that the proposal to slaughter cormorants on Middle Island, part of Point Pelee National Park, must be stopped. Tell him cormorants are a part of the natural ecology of Middle Island and that it should be allowed to evolve in a natural way.

Remind him that their is no way to humanely kill large numbers of birds in the field and that doing so is an archaic, destructive and cruel method of wildlife management that has no scientific or ecological justification.

Les Terrasses de la Chaudiere,
10 Wellington Street, 28th Floor
Gatineau, QC
K1A 0H3
Fax: (819) 953-0279

Raise this issue today with Premier Dalton McGuinty and David Ramsay, Minister of Natural Resources! Let them know that the killing of cormorants is an archaic, destructive and cruel method of wildlife management that has no scientific or ecological justification.

Legislative Building,
Queen's Park
Toronto ON
M7A 1A1
Fax: (416) 325-3745

Minister of Natural Resources
6630-99 Wellesley St West
6th Floor, Whitney Block
Toronto, ON
M7A 1W3
Fax: 416-314-2216