ST. JOHN’S, NL — Shortly after the province announced a new license program to kill double-crested cormorants on Wednesday, June 1, social media was abuzz with people interested in hunting the bird recreationally — but those people will want maybe hold onto loading their guns.
“I just want to differentiate that this is a permit to address site-specific issues, and it is not intended or designed to be a large-scale cormorant hunt,” Wayne Barney said. , senior wildlife, fisheries, forestry and agriculture biologist, at SaltWire Network. .
He said the department had received complaints from the public about large numbers of birds in specific areas, such as around waterholes or near major salmon rivers.
Wildlife regulations allow cormorants to be killed under a permit when they are considered a nuisance.
Barney said this permit is designed to be used only in those situations, not as a general permit for someone who wants to hunt cormorants. People can apply for the permit, and the wildlife division will assess the issue described in the application, and if the department thinks killing the birds will help the situation, a permit will be issued.
Fish population concerns
The government press release says there are fears that the rapidly increasing cormorant population could negatively affect fish populations.
SaltWire Network asked Barney which specific fish were affected.
He said they haven’t identified specific populations.
“The perception is that these birds are competing with some of our local fish populations, especially at the mouths of rivers, in estuaries, feeding on parr, trout and salmon, and that sort of thing, but our evaluation of this has not been completed, and the department will be part of a process as we move forward with this program,” Barney said.
“The perception is that these birds are competing with some of our local fish populations, particularly at the mouths of rivers, in estuaries, feeding on trout parr and salmon.”
Salmonid Association of Eastern Newfoundland president Robert Bishop said birds are definitely a problem.
“Just go out and watch the duck pond in Bowring Park these days. I mean, there’s no more fish in it, and there’s still between six and a dozen cormorants sitting on the rock over there at the duck pond.
However, Bishop said he was sure they were only part of the problem and he believed that many other problems, such as pollution and flooding, also affected the fish.
While the government’s press release said permits would be accepted to kill cormorants on aquaculture sites, Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association executive director Jamie Baker said cormorants currently do not have a permit. significant effect on aquaculture sites. However, he said that could change if populations increase rapidly.
“As an industry, we support any effort to improve and protect sensitive fish populations and habitat,” he said in an email.
Seabird biologist Dr. Bill Montevecchi worries about permits.
“You just don’t want to make it a rodeo, and it’s too easy for that to happen, and I think that’s a real concern,” he said.
Montevecchi said people are really good at scapegoating – blaming animals, such as cormorants, for problems created by humans.
He said any killing of cormorants should be targeted, strictly regulated and done minimally so they are scared away from the habitat the government is trying to protect.