Cormorants are being targeted simply because they eat salmonCormorants are being targeted simply
because they eat salmon
Photo: Sea Shepherd
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced plans to shoot thousands of double-crested cormorants in the Columbia River Estuary beginning next year.

Much like California sea lions at the Columbia River, cormorants are being targeted simply because they eat salmon. Federal officials are claiming that these seabirds, protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, eat too many juvenile salmon, as well as steelhead, as the fish migrate through the river estuary to the Pacific Ocean. The proposed cull program would claim the lives of 16,000 cormorants over the course of four years, with killing taking place during the birds’ nesting seasons. Oil will also be spread over cormorant eggs to suffocate the eggs and ensure that they do not hatch. While the Army Corps emphasizes the increase in the East Sand Island double-crested cormorant population in recent years, populations of these birds in general have been declining and the sustainability of this large-scale cull is questionable at best.

Sea Shepherd’s Dam Guardians were on the frontlines along the Columbia River and at the Bonneville Dam in 2012 and 2013, documenting the hazing, trapping and cruel branding of sea lions by the Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish & Wildlife for the “crime” of eating salmon. If any of the branded sea lions are determined to be eating “too many” salmon, they are killed – and the federal government has allowed these states to kill up to 92 federally protected sea lions each year until June 2016. It is important to note that “too many salmon” might constitute just one salmonid. The sea lion cull continues, despite the fact that they consume only 1-4% of the salmon, while fisheries are typically allowed to take 10-12%.

USDA bird hazer sets off explosives at the Bonneville Dam, May 2013USDA bird hazer sets off explosives at the
Bonneville Dam, May 2013
Photo: Sea Shepherd
The Army Corps reports that non-lethal methods – including “hazing with lights, reducing nesting habitat, and using human presence to flush double-crested cormorants off potential nesting sites” – have been tested. Sea Shepherd has documented bird hazers from the USDA harassing cormorants along the river, frightening the birds with explosives.

Just as the taxpayer-funded culling of sea lions at the Bonneville Dam will not solve the problem of a declining salmon population, nor will the shooting and killing of cormorants – set to cost up to $1.5 million each year of the four-year cull. The scapegoating of these innocent animals redirects the public’s focus from the real problems at the Columbia – overfishing, a polluted river filled with toxins, and the dam itself.

CALL TO ACTION: Though Sea Shepherd does not currently have Dam Guardians on the ground, we remain dedicated to protecting the animals who call the Columbia River home and exposing the true threats to this endangered salmon population. Please join us in speaking out against the planned killing of 16,000 cormorants for the “crime” of eating salmon. Here are ways you can help:

1) Attend one or both of the upcoming public meetings scheduled by the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss the proposed cull to show that you stand with the cormorants and the sea lions, as well as the salmon:

July 10 from 2:30pm to 5:30pm PT
Matt Dishman Community Center
77 N.E. Knott St.
Portland, Oregon

July 24 from 3pm to 6pm

Best Western Lincoln Inn
555 Hamburg Ave.
Astoria, Oregon

2) Submit public comments against the cull:

Email: Cormorant-EIS@usace.army.mil

Mail:

Sondra Ruckwardt
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District
Attn: CENWP-PM-E / Double-creasted cormorant draft EIS
P.O. Box 2946
Portland, OR 97208-2946

The deadline for public comments is August 19, 2014.

First sea lions. Now cormorants. Where and when will it end?

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