Double-crested cormorant (cormorant) management is once again at the center of agency rule-making with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and MUCC is weighing in. 

Cormorants are a native species, but wreak havoc on fisheries populations across the Great Lakes region. To facilitate adaptive, localized management the USFWS submitted a proposed rule to the federal register to create a new depredation permit program that would allow state and tribal wildlife agencies to lethally control cormorants to protect wild and public hatchery-stocked fish. 

Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) is in strong support of adaptive cormorant management, per several member-passed resolutions. It is important that supporters of scientific wildlife management are heard in this comment process, as many of the others submitting comments represent animal rights organizations that oppose lethal management. MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter submitted a letter to the USFWS encouraging the passage of this proposed rule. 

“The issues pertaining to the management of cormorants have been the subject of numerous policy resolutions from our members,” said Trotter. “All of these resolutions have focused on using a variety of tools to better bring the recovered population of cormorants in the Great Lakes into balance with other important wildlife and sportfish populations.”

Cormorants represent a remarkable conservation success story. From a species that was quite literally on the brink of extinction due to toxic pollution, they have far exceeded every goal for population recovery. The question about cormorants is not binary – we need not choose between either having cormorants or not – but wildlife managers must be equipped with the tools necessary to do their jobs based on the best available science. 

MUCC hopes that this new permit program will help state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies achieve a population of cormorants that will meet agency goals. 

Cormorants are a federally regulated fish-eating bird. According to USFWS Environmental Impact Studies, from the early 1970s to 2000 cormorant numbers increased from near zero to 115,000 birds in Michigan waters alone. Surveys suggest that current populations might number between 731,880 and 752,516 in the central and eastern United States. The majority of these cormorants reside in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron at some point in the year. Their diets consist mostly of alewives and round gobies (forage fish), but they also consume significant numbers of stocked trout and salmon fingerlings, as well as highly valued smallmouth bass and yellow perch. Although fisheries in 24 states in the central and eastern United States are affected by cormorant depredations, Michigan hosts about 55% of the interior population’s breeding pairs and can be considered “ground zero” for the negative effects of cormorants. 

Over the last twenty years, MUCC and our membership has continuously supported the need for cormorant control efforts. In 2002, MUCC passed a resolution supporting cormorant control that allows taking of cormorants, eggs and nests in order to significantly reduce the population, and supported removal from list of birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In 2004, MUCC passed a resolution urging the President, Congress, the Secretary of the Interior and USFWS to take the necessary action to provide appropriate funding support for double-crested cormorant control efforts, and to provide appropriate leadership, coordination, control and assessment of those efforts. Implemented over the last 12 years, these measures have been highly successful in reducing cormorant abundance to acceptable numbers and have restored our fisheries.

As always, MUCC will continue to track this proposal through the federal rule-making process, representing our members and all of the recreational anglers of Michigan. 

Since 1937, MUCC has united citizens to conserve, protect and enhance Michigan’s natural resources and outdoor heritage. MUCC has also been the constant protector of your rights to hunt, fish and trap since its founding. Please join us today: http://bit.ly/JoinMUCC

About Charlie Booher

Charlie Booher is a State Conservation Policy Fellow with Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

4 Comments

  1. Phillip Lenke on July 20, 2020 at 4:36 pm

    Even though they arnt very palatable neither are trash fish for bow fishing. Most become fertilizer. These birds need to opened to shoot during waterfowl season.

  2. Edwin Kowalski on July 23, 2020 at 12:22 pm

    The destruction from cormorants is irreversible on land and in the water. They destroy habitat and decimate our perch population on Lake St. Clair. Please act in reducing the numbers of these birds that eat 3 times their body mass each, per day!!! It’s unsustainable damage to our resource. Thank you

  3. Paul H Schmidt on July 27, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    Bottom line! Cormorants are destructive. We live in the Eastern Upper Peninsula and we fish all waters of the St Mary’s river system, the Great Lakes, tributaries, and inland lakes. Some of our islands have been destroyed by Cormorants. The natural foliage has been killed in all their nesting areas! (Looks like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.)
    These birds devastate our fisheries. We watch them congregate and corral schools of fish like the yellow perch which is an awesome gamefish! Our perch population came back ten fold after the last sportsman’s clubs management shoot and it has brought back some tourism that target yellow perch and walleyes while vacationing. Everybody was happy. In my opinion, these birds do not benefit our fragile ecosystem at all. We are not like the oceans that are abundant with billions of fish forage for the birds to consume. Controlling the birds just “kicks the can down the road”! They are like cockroaches, if you have two, you have a million.
    As far as the nets are concerned. If you go by state health department laws and guidelines, temperature control is one of the leading hazard analysis critical control points (HACCP, aka hassip) anything between 41 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 is a bacterium danger zone. These temperatures allow bacteria to grow at alarming rates. Icing down fish after being in 41-80+ degree water serves no purpose if the fish is dead and has already reached a toxic state. Immediately upon death of a fish or animal the internal temperature should be held at 41 degrees. You should achieve internal temp of approximately 70 degrees in the first couple of hours and 41 degrees in 6 hours, or frozen and not re-thawed prior to consumption. If the nets are checked every 24 hours and fish are dead, this could create a food borne illness pandemic. Only in my opinion at this point, are, Great Lakes net fishing Is not 100% in compliance with Federal and State food service guidelines. Thank you for your time.
    Paul Schmidt
    906-647-2060

  4. Edmund J Kenny on July 28, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    I agree the population of cormorant populations is causing serious problems with the water quality on Lake Saint Clair. I have witnessed when they started roosting in the trees at Metro beach black river. Several years back those trees were healthy. Now most are dead or on the decline brown and covered with the constant defecation covering trees and water edges. Along with hundreds of cormorants there but whats left of Grassy island just west of the north channel they have taken home there. Sickening for swimmers and the smell can be horrendous. I am glad this issue is finally being addressed. Thank you.

Leave a Comment