Fifty-One Canadian and U.S. Experts Decry Ford’s Plan to Gun Down Great Lakes Cormorants

“A hunt is not the approach that should be utilized to ensure maintaining a sustainable population of cormorants in Ontario.”

For the Ford Government, and for many anglers and hunters, the answer to protecting fish populations in our freshwater lakes is a mass-killing of this bird.

A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper, followed by an Open Letter to Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski from 51 Wildlife Experts

Posted September 2nd, 2020 on Niagara At Large

If we need one more reason why people of voting age across Ontario have to promise ourselves to throw the Conservative government of Doug Ford out of office as soon as possible, here it is.

The Ford government, along with an Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry that has become such a public disgrace that it might as well be shut down, is now on the verge of letting hobby hunters out in the weeks ahead, to participate in the possible extermination of an entire species of bird in a Great Lakes basin that we share with our American neighbours.

 

The species in question is the double-creased cormorant, and the grounds the Ford government and this waste of a space of a ministry is offering for unleashing every Homer Simpson and Elmer Fudd who owns a gun on them is that they are rather filthy birds that foil some of the near-shore environment and worst of all, they compete with anglers for catching fish.

In my many years working as an environment reporter for mainstream new outlets, I’ve heard over and over again from a sub-set of the sport angling population that, to use their words; “These birds are stealing our fish.”

They were blaming cormorants for the depletion of fish populations in the Great Lakes and were pressing back then –  as far back as the 1980s and 1990s – for a green light from the provincial governments of the day to go out and shoot them.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford – Let’s get out there on the Great Lakes and blow away some cormorants.

How interesting that this same sub-set of people have never managed to get as  amped up about all of the plastic and toxic chemicals being discharged into our Great Lakes – human-made garbage that is continuing to wreak havoc on fish and other wildlife populations, and on the quality of the freshwater tens-of-millions of Canadians and Americans around these lakes depend on for a healthy survival.

Nor do you hear these people raising anywhere near the same amount of hell about municipal, provincial and federal governments allowing development right up to the shorelines of lakes and tributaries that potentially destroys spawning and feeding areas for fish.

And they sure don’t have all that much to say about all of the manure and chemical fertilizers from farming operations that ignite the growth of algae and robs the waters of oxygen fish and other wildlife need to survive in the Great Lakes.

But they sure have been wanting to go out and blow away cormorants, alright, and now they have found a government in Ontario that is willing to let them do it.

And this Ford government-sponsored cormorant hunt, scheduled to begin later this September, appears to be more about letting this sub-set of anglers and hunters exterminate  a species of bird that they can’t even take home to eat, than it is at addressing the very realhuman-made threats to the Great Lakes environment, and shame on it.

Shame too on an Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry that could once be counted on to speak out for wildlife and for addressing the real causes of environmental degradation, but doesn’t any more.

Shame on this Ontario ministry and shame on those looking forward to going out and blowing away these Great Lakes birds.

Now here is text from an ‘Open Letter’ that a host of wildlife and environment experts on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border have sent to Ford’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, John Yakabuski, in a last-minute effort to talk him out of this outrageous cormorant hunt – 

Open Letter

Regarding Fall Harvest of Double-crested Cormorants

To: Minister John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry

September 1, 2020

Dear Minister Yakabuski;

On July 31, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced a 106-day fall hunt on double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) where a hunter can take 15 birds per day.

As ecologists, fisheries scientists and natural resource managers, we are concerned at the lack of scientific examination associated with the announcement.

The hunt originates from, and is regulated, by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) whose mandate is to “sustainably manage Ontario’s fish and wildlife resources” and as such, the justifications provided for cormorant management should be science-based and backed by rigorous analyses. To sustainably manage a resource, populations objectives must be identified  to ensure persistence of the population through time.

No rationale is provided as to why a provincial wide hunt is being adopted instead of targeted localized management approaches.

This is especially important for addressing fish populations believed to be impacted by cormorants and impacts to habitat because, if they are occurring, such impacts are a result of site- and time-specific conditions.

The U.S. Environmental Impact Statement on cormorant control rejected hunting as an option noting, “The proposed action [depredation orders] is preferable to hunting largely for ethical reasons. From purely biological and economic perspectives, hunting might prove an effective way to kill numerous DCCOs at minimal expense to the government.

“However, we have serious reservations about authorizing a non-traditional species to be hunted when it cannot be eaten or widely utilized and feel that there are more responsible and socially acceptable ways of dealing with migratory bird conflicts.”

This hunt departs from two of the seven principles of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

First, that wildlife should only be killed for a legitimate, non-frivolous purpose. Second, that scientific double-crested cormorants in Ontario.

The U.S. Environmental Impact Statement on cormorant control rejected hunting as an option noting, “The proposed action [depredation orders] is preferable to hunting largely for ethical reasons. From purely biological and economic perspectives, hunting might prove an effective way to kill numerous DCCOs at minimal expense to the government.

“However, we have serious reservations about authorizing a non-traditional species to be hunted when it cannot be eaten or widely utilized and feel that there are more responsible and socially acceptable ways of dealing with migratory bird conflicts.

The hunt is problematic on many other fronts. While the announcement provided an estimate of the 2019 breeding population of cormorants, no assessment was provided that identified the replaceable and sustainable level of cormorant harvest. If 0.50/ of small game hunters reached the daily limit for ten days that exceeds the estimated breeding population in Ontario.

Further, there was no indication that reporting by hunters will be required, so how will the numbers of cormorants taken in a fall harvest be assessed?

Without such reporting, two factors are of concern. The first is the inability to coordinate total numbers of cormorants killed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on their proposed and probable control efforts.

Second, there will be no data on the incidental take of migratory species that look similar to double-crested cormorants in flight such as the common loon (Gavia immer).

The fall harvest was stated to “. …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.”

Yet, the approaches used to assess cormorant-fisheries interactions” indicate that the MNRF will be unable to assess how the removal of an unknown number of cormorants from locations where no problems may even exist will be linked to the state of various fish populations across Ontario.

On that basis alone, targeted, localized management approaches must be adopted instead of a hunt.

Minister Yakabuski, we call on you and the MNRF to provide a science-based, detailed and peer-reviewed approach  to resolve conflicts  with cormorants. At a minimum,  the report should include:

Data on Ontario’s cormorant population (numbers of breeding birds and colonies) and population goals, including analyses on various take levels, the incorporation of ongoing management activities in the province (e.g., cull on Middle Island Point Pelee National Park l ‘) and an estimate of how the population will respond to targeted localized management actions to ensure a sustainable population.”

Detailed rationales and objectives for proposed localized management activities ‘

An explanation on how the MNRF will coordinate with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in managing the interior and migratory population of cormorants. Cormorants are a species native to Ontario.’

A significant amount of financial resources was invested in creating a healthier environment which allowed them to recover; their abundance is a conservation success story.’

To avoid the species becoming endangered again, the population needs to be managed using the best practices in wildlife management and their populations carefully monitored, particularly in conjunction  with the USFWS.

A hunt is not the approach that should be utilized to ensure maintaining a sustainable population of cormorants in Ontario.

Sincerely,

Paul L. Aird, PhD, Forest Conservation Policy, Professor, Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto, ON

Frances Bonier, PhD, Behaviour, Ecology, Evolution & Physiology, Associate Professor, Queen’s University, ON

Gregor Beck, MSc, Wildlife Ecologist, Senior Conservation Advisor Birds Canada, ON

Rachel Bryant, MSc, Ecology & PhD Environmental ethics and animal ethics, University of Toronto Scarborough, ON

Sheila Colla, PhD, Ecology & Conservation, Assistant Professor, York University, ON

Steven J. Cooke, PhD, Fisheries Scientist, Canada Research Professor, Carleton University, Fellow of the American Fisheries Society, Member of the College of the Royal Society of Canada, ON

James Diana, PhD, Fisheries & Aquaculture, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan, MI

Jessica Forrest, PhD, Associate Professor of Ecology, University of Ottawa, ON

Vicki Friesen, PhD, Conservation Biologist, Professor, Queen’s University, ON Gail Fraser, PhD, Wildlife Ecology (waterbirds; cormorants), Professor, York University, ON

Jessica Forrest, PhD – Associate Professor of Ecology, University of Ottawa, ON Lianne Girard, BSc, Environmental Sciences & Restoration, University of Waterloo, ON

Jean-François Giroux, PhD, Wildlife management and Ecology, Professor Université du Québec à Montréal, QC

John Grandy, PhD, Ecology, Executive Director, The Pegasus Foundation and Representative Pettus Crowe Foundation, CI

Paul Grogan, PhD, Plant and Ecosystem Ecology, Queen’s University, ON Chris Grooms, BSc, Ecology (Paleoliminology), Research Technician, Queen’s University, ON

Mart Gross, PhD, Ecology/Biodiversity Science, Professor, University of Toronto, ON Ian L. Jones, PhD, Ecology (Marine bird biologist), Professor, Memorial University of Newfoundland, NL

Clement Kent, PhD, Ecology, Adjunct Professor, York University, ON Jeremy Kerr, PhD, Ecology, University Research Chair in Macroecology and Conservation Chair, University of Ottawa, ON

Edward Kroc, PhD Ecologist & Statistician, Dept. of ECPS University of British Columbia, BC

Valérie Langlois, PhD, Canada Research Chair, Associate Professor in Ecotoxicogenomics and Endocrine Disruption Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) Quebec, QC

Donald Lyons, PhD, Avian Ecology, OR Jim Ludwig, PhD, Ecology (seven decades of research on waterbirds), ON

Julien Martin, PhD, Evolutionary Ecology, Professor, University of Ottawa, ON Patrick Moldowan, PhD Candidate, Ecology, University of Toronto, ON

Robert Montgomerie, PhD, Ecology and evolutionary biology of birds, Queen’s University, ON

Faisal Moola, PhD, Ecology, University of Guelph, ON

Ralph D. Morris, PhD (Population Ecologist), Professor Emeritus, Brock University, ON

Silke Nebel, PhD, Bird Ecologist, Vice-President, Conservation and Science Birds Canada/Oiseaux Canada, ONRyan Norris, PhD, Ecology, Professor, University of Guelph, ON

Martyn Obbard, PhD, Wildlife Ecology, ON

Laurence Packer, PhD, Ecology and Biodiversity, Distinguished Research Professor, York University, ON Steven Price, MSc, Ecology, President, Birds Canada, ON

Jim Quinn, PhD, Ecology (waterbirds, including management of cormorants at Hamilton Harbour for 14 years), McMaster University, ON

William E. Rees, PhD, FRSC, Population Ecologist and Ecological Economist, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia, BC Jordan Reynolds, PhD Candidate, Ecology, Trent University, ON Garth Riley, BSc, Ecology, University of Guelph, ON

Daniel Roby, PhD, Wildlife Ecology, Professor Emeritus, Oregon State University, OR R.C.

Rooney, PhD, Ecology, Associate Professor of Wetland Ecology, University of Waterloo, ON Michael Runtz, Honours BSc, Lecturer, Carleton University, ON

Stanley Senner, MSc, Ecology (Ornithology), MT Sapna Sharma, PhD, Ecology, ON Dave Shutler, PhD, Ecology & Ornithology Professor Emeritus, Acadia University, NS

Andrea L. Smith, PhD, Ecology, ON John P. Smol, PhD, Ecology/Limnology, Distinguished University Professor, Queen’s University, ON

Bridget Stutchbury, PhD, Ecology, York University, ON Gregory W. Thiemann, PhD, Wildlife Ecology, Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University, ON

Sarah Wallace, PhD candidate in ecotoxicology (studying cormorants in ON and QC), QC D.V.

Chip Weseloh, PhD, Ecology – waterbird biologist (> 40 years working with cormorants in Alberta, Minnesota and Ontario), Retired government, ON

Linda R. Wires, MA & MS, Conservation Scientist, Waterbirds, MN

ne Disruption Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) Quebec, QC

Donald Lyons, PhD, Avian Ecology, OR

Jim Ludwig, PhD, Ecology (seven decades of research on waterbirds), ON  Julien Martin, PhD, Evolutionary Ecology, Professor, University of Ottawa, ON Patrick Moldowan, PhD Candidate, Ecology, University of Toronto, ON

Robert Montgomerie, PhD, Ecology and evolutionary biology of birds, Queen’s University, ON Faisal Moola, PhD, Ecology, University of Guelph, ON

Ralph D. Morris, PhD (Population Ecologist), Professor Emeritus, Brock University, ON

Silke Nebel, PhD, Bird Ecologist, Vice-President, Conservation and Science Birds Canada/Oiseaux Canada, ON

Ryan Norris, PhD, Ecology, Professor, University of Guelph, ON Martyn Obbard, PhD, Wildlife Ecology, ON

Laurence Packer, PhD, Ecology and Biodiversity, Distinguished Research Professor, York University, ON

Steven Price, MSc, Ecology, President, Birds Canada, ON

Jim Quinn, PhD, Ecology (waterbirds, including management of cormorants at Hamilton Harbour for 14 years), McMaster University, ON

William E. Rees, PhD, FRSC, Population Ecologist and Ecological Economist, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia, BC

Jordan Reynolds, PhD Candidate, Ecology, Trent University, ON Garth Riley, BSc, Ecology, University of Guelph, ON

Daniel Roby, PhD, Wildlife Ecology, Professor Emeritus, Oregon State University, OR

R.C. Rooney, PhD, Ecology, Associate Professor of Wetland Ecology, University of Waterloo, ON

Michael Runtz, Honours BSc, Lecturer, Carleton University, ON Stanley Senner, MSc, Ecology (Ornithology), MT

Sapna Sharma, PhD, Ecology, ON

Dave Shutler, PhD, Ecology & Ornithology Professor Emeritus, Acadia University, NS Andrea L. Smith, PhD, Ecology, ON

John P. Smo1, PhD, Ecology/Limnology, Distinguished University Professor, Queen’s University, ON

Bridget Stutchbury, PhD, Ecology, York University, ON

Gregory W. Thiemann, PhD, Wildlife Ecology, Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University, ON

Sarah Wallace, PhD candidate in ecotoxicology (studying cormorants in ON and QC), QC

D.V. Chip Weseloh, PhD, Ecology – waterbird biologist (> 40 years working with cormorants in Alberta, Minnesota and Ontario), Retired government, ON

Linda R. Wires, MA & MS, Conservation Scientist, Waterbirds, MN

To read a CBC report on this open letter click on – https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/open-letter-ontario-minister-natural-resources-forestry-cormorant-hunt-1.5708840

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4 responses to “Fifty-One Canadian and U.S. Experts Decry Ford’s Plan to Gun Down Great Lakes Cormorants

  1. I wonder if there are cormorants at the Ford family cottage? Could that be the trigger for this shoot-em-up?

    Like

  2. WOW! An impressive list of experts. I thought there was open season on experts lately as well… like medical experts and epidemiologists!!!! How many of them can you bag in a day?

    Elmer Fudd….I knew Ford reminded me of someone!

    Another problem is these wahoos will shoot anything that remotely looks like a cormorant like the beautiful and rare loons, the iconic emblem of the North whose eerie call scared the wits out of me as a child! I thought they were ghosts. Maybe they soon will be. Loons especially could easily be mistaken for a cormorant from a distance. Maybe even a few graceful Great Blue Herons or black swans.

    Remember carrier pigeons? Not many do. They used to be like clouds in the sky. Every last one gone. For what? Great auks, dodos, moas? The list is endless.

    Like

  3. there is no ‘science’ for the dolts, whose manhood seems to be proven by the blasting of their guns and arrows

    Like

  4. I live near the Crowe River, south of Marmora and 2 years ago there was one cormorant visiting a small bay over the summer, and I used to see him/her in my kayak and take pictures, this year its gone. I hope it was not shot by someone who thought it was “stealing our fish” Did you know that the MNR stocks fish in just about every lake and river system in Ontario. Kinda crazy when you think about it. Basically if they did’nt most fish would be extinct from the province, not from the birds and wildlife that have evolved over thousands of years for our specific ecology, but because thousands of humans think its their god given right to “sport fish” every square inch of waterways in our province! I have a radical thought-what about banning fishing most of the year, to let the fish a chance to reproduce naturally, without having to be bred and released into the wild just for human consumption?

    Like

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