Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Feds move forward with cormorant plan of action

Associate Editor

Minneapolis A federal rule that could provide for cormorant
control at hot spots like Lake of the Woods and the Knife River
near Lake Superior, soon could take effect.

The rule released last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service expands the aquaculture depredation order, which has been
in place in Minnesota and 12 other states since 1998 and allows for
the taking of cormorants causing damage at fish-rearing

It also includes a public resource depredation order allowing
more flexibility in the control of double-crested cormorants where
they’re causing damage to public resources like fisheries,
vegetation, and other birds.

Only three agencies the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
Wildlife Services, states agencies, and tribes on their own land,
will be allowed to control cormorants without a federal permit,
said Steve Lewis, a Region 3 wildlife biologist for the USFWS.
“This doesn’t authorize people on the street to go out and shoot
cormorants,” he said.

However, there are reporting requirements for these agencies, a
“number of checks and balances,” Lewis said. Sufficient evidence
must show the need for cormorant control, and other bird species
found in the same areas as cormorants must not be negatively
affected by the cormorant control measure.

According to the USFWS, “Agencies acting under the order must
have landowner permission, may not adversely affect other migratory
bird species or threatened and endangered species, and must satisfy
annual reporting and evaluating requirements.”

In Minnesota, Lewis said he’s already received questions
regarding such areas as Lake of the Woods, and the Knife River area
of Lake Superior. In both these places officials say cormorants are
having a negative effect on the fish populations.

In the next couple months, federal, state, and tribal agencies
will be convening to iron out the procedural aspects of the new
cormorant ruling.

Carroll Henderson, Minnesota DNR nongame supervisor, said among
the agency’s concerns are how control of cormorants could affect
other avian species.

“It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but it
definitely changes the playing field,” he said.

Henderson said legislative action could be necessary to address
parts of the new federal rule. But that would have to be determined
at upcoming meetings.

Lewis said federal, state, and tribal officials would monitor
the cormorant population by counting the birds at a depredation
location, determining the number of birds killed, then counting the
population after the action. That would be site-specific
monitoring, Lewis said.

Also, surveys of cormorants conducted along with the counting of
other species also would continue.

“Our agency (USFWS) will maintain management authority of
cormorants, but the other agencies have a stake in this,” Lewis
said. “We need to ensure that nothing irreversible is done to
cormorants or the birds that nest with them.”

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