Province Setting Stage for “Fall Harvest” Aimed At Blowing Away Fish-Eating Birds
Double-Crested Cormorants being Scapegoated again for Depleting Fish Populations in Great Lakes
A Foreword by Doug Draper at Niagara At Large followed by a New Release from Ontario’s Ford Government
Posted July 31st, 2020 on Niagara At Large
A Foreword by Doug Draper –
Well, here we go again.
It was about 25 or so years ago while I was still working as a full-time environment reporter at The St. Catharines Standard, that I attended a meeting in a banquet room of the Beacon – a restaurant around Jordan Harbour overlooking Lake Ontario – that was packed with anglers and hunters, all ginned up to kill a bird on the Great Lakes called double-crested cormorants.
Their argument, over and over again, was that these birds are “stealing our fish,” and they were doing it to a point, in their view, that there were very few fish in the Great Lakes left for them to catch.
There were some wildlife experts from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources there at the time who tried to explain that; ‘yes, while cormorants were efficient fish catchers in their own right,’ there were plenty of other reasons why fish populations were suffering in our great lakes – like industrial pollution, run-off of algae-generating chemicals from agricultural fields, and developers destroying spawning grounds with shoreline housing and strip malls.
No, this was a mob out to lynch double-crested cormorants. And thanks to Ontario’s Ford government – always looking for a simple, black and white solution when it comes to just about anything – the mob is back, and on the verge of getting a licence to blow these birds away.
Niagara At Large will have more to say about this in the days ahead. For now, here is the Ford government’s latest, July 31st news release on the subject –
News Release, July 31st, 2020
Ontario Taking Steps to Protect Fish and Wildlife Habitat
Fall Harvest for Double-Crested Cormorants Introduced to Protect Local Ecosystems
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry –
FENELON FALLS – The Ontario government is taking steps to protect fish stocks and natural habitat from the harmful impacts of double-crested cormorants by introducing a fall harvest for the species.
The harvest will help address concerns about impacts to local ecosystems by cormorants, a bird that preys on fish, eating a pound a day, and that can damage trees in which they nest and roost.
The announcement was made today by John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.
“We’ve heard concerns from property owners, hunters and anglers, and commercial fishers about the kind of damage cormorants have caused in their communities, so we’re taking steps to help them deal with any local issues,” said Minister Yakabuski.
“In large amounts, cormorant droppings can kill trees and other vegetation and destroy traditional nesting habitats for some other colonial waterbirds, so it’s critical that we take action to strike a healthy balance in local ecosystems.”
Following public consultations, the province has made changes to its initial proposal and has decided to introduce a hunting season that will run annually from September 15 to December 31, starting in 2020.
“We listened to those who provided comments about the cormorant hunting proposal, and as a result, we are introducing only a fall hunting season to avoid interfering with recreational users of waterways and nesting periods for some migratory birds,” said Minister Yakabuski.
“We have also reduced the maximum number of cormorants a hunter can take to 15 a day, which is a similar limit to one for federally regulated migratory game birds such as mourning doves, Snow and Ross’s Geese, Rails, coot and Gallinules.”
In 2019, the ministry and partner agencies surveyed cormorant colonies across the Great Lakes and select inland lakes in Ontario. Based on nest count surveys, there are an estimated minimum of 143,000 breeding cormorants in 344 colonies across the province. Combined with historical data, trends suggest that cormorant populations are increasing in Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Lake Superior and are stable on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Huron.
“Growing up in North Bay and spending many summers fishing on Lake Nipissing, I have seen firsthand the issues that cormorants have caused in some local areas,” said Mike Harris, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “A new fall hunting season will help communities manage cormorant populations where they have negatively impacted natural habitat and other waterbird species.”
“Cormorants have been a growing problem on Sturgeon Lake and Balsam Lake, where they have covered islands with their guano, killing trees and vegetation,” said Laurie Scott, MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock. “We’re listening to local residents who have voiced their concerns and asked for additional tools to address the issue.”
Ontario has a healthy and sustainable cormorant population. We will continue to monitor the cormorant population status and trends to support sustainability of cormorants in the province.
- Double-crested cormorants are fish-eating birds, usually eating easy-to-catch fish species. They nest on the ground or in trees on islands and peninsulas.
- In large amounts, cormorant droppings, called guano, can kill trees and other vegetation and destroy traditional nesting habitats for some other colonial waterbirds.
- Competition between cormorants and some colonial nesting waterbirds has been well documented, including the displacement of some other species by cormorants.
- Hunters are responsible for appropriately identifying their target and ensuring they are harvesting only double-crested cormorants.
- While some hunters may choose to consume cormorants, those who choose not to consume the cormorants they harvest must retrieve the birds and dispose of them properly.
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