Disturbingly, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is attempting to turn its authority over to the states in two instances: with regard to “resident” Canada geese and double-crested Cormorants. The FWS released two Draft Environmental Impact Statements (DEIS) on the management of Cormorants and Canada Geese respectively in which they favor the alternative that would allow state game agencies to make decisions unilaterally. Wildlife Watch does not want to see that happen.

To the end of protecting Cormorants and asking for a review of the FWS, we arranged a meeting with the aides of Senators. Clinton and Schumer with Wildlife Watch, the Fund, and the local Audubon Society in Albany, NY. The reason we chose Albany, instead of NYC, is that it showed an upstate constituency. NYC is an easy vote for Democrats but not so Upstate. The following letter was drafted by Andy Mason for concerned organizations whose input was given at the meeting, the last paragraph (added by Wildlife Watch and accepted by all) is of UTMOST IMPORTANCE:

US Senator Hillary R. Clinton
March 8, 2002
Albany, NY

Dear Sen. Clinton:

We are writing on behalf of our respective organizations to seek your assistance in addressing an important pending environmental and wildlife issue. Our groups represent a combined membership of over 7

million individuals, with over 500,000 in NY State.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has recently released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on management of Double-crested Cormorants nationwide. Cormorants are a native, non-game, colonial waterbird ranging across North America and Mexico. They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA), our nation’s basic bird protection statute.

USFWS proposal would result in the killing of over 200,000 cormorants annually-10-20 % of their population—in addition to permitting the lethal practice of egg oiling of many thousands of cormorant nests. Also, the proposal would allow killing of cormorants at their night roosts in 12 southern states, and perhaps most importantly, delegate management authority over cormorants to the states, other federal agencies, Indian tribes, and their agents, without retaining significant oversight.

The unsupported rationale put forth by the USFWS for embarking on this assault on cormorants is the perception that recent cormorant population increases are impacting sportfishing opportunities, the aquaculture industry and other bird populations. The Service has received heavy pressure from special interest groups representing commercial charter boat operators, catfish farmers, tourism interests, elected officials and others to “do something about cormorants”. However, sound science does not support significant cormorant controls.

This action would set a dangerous precedent in managing our native wildlife resources. Rather than basing its determinations on factual evidence, USFWS has succumbed to these pressures and put forth a plan that is contradicted by its own studies and research. Prior to preparing the DEIS, the Service commissioned a study and literature review that is heavily referenced in the document. “The Status of the Double-crested Cormorant in North America”, Wires, et. al. (2001), and the DEIS itself state that cormorant population increases may well be merely a return to historic levels, following a century of pollution, persecution, and habitat loss. If anything, this is a positive sign of a healthier environment. Also, the Wires report and other studies clearly show that fish sought by sport anglers make up a very small (<1.5%) proportion of cormorants’ diet, and that cormorants have an insignificant impact on the forage fish used by these sport fish. Recent catch reductions cited by anglers are a result of less nutrient loading of waterways, introduction of exotic species such as sea lamprey and zebra mussels, overfishing, and other factors unrelated to cormorants and other fish-eating birds.

Canada Geese: Not only are they persecuted by the Fish and Wildlife Service and State Game Agencies, but as you can see above, they are often subjected to sadistic individuals. This goose was found in a park in Montana with an arrow in her back.

Photo Credit: Pat O’Neill, Butte, Montana

We thank Gregg Feigelson for posting the above photograph.

Similarly, the DEIS fails to make a compelling argument for controlling cormorants at aquaculture facilities. Disease, not cormorants, is the primary cause of mortality and financial loss in aquaculture. If control is needed at certain aquaculture locations, there is a range of effective non-lethal techniques available.

In essence, the Double-crested Cormorant, an abundant, uncharismatic, fish-eating species, is being scapegoated to placate an angry, vocal group that cannot see below the surface of the water. If this approach succeeds, all of our fish-eating birds-herons, egrets, Bald Eagle, loons, pelicans, terns and many others, could be at risk of similar “management”.

In addition, by handing off its authority in this matter to the states and other agencies, the USFWS is avoiding its statutory responsibility to ” . . conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people”. This is indicative of an increasing tendency for Service management to overlook science and its own field staff in making its decisions.

The public comment period on the Cormorant Management

DEIS ended Feb. 28, 2002, and the Service anticipates a final decision by this summer. We have urged the Service to adopt Alternative A-no action, or Alternative B-non-lethal management, in the Final EIS. This would allow continued consideration and determination on cormorant conflicts on a case-by-case basis, and would retain the USFWS’ important role in overseeing control of these birds.

We ask that you review this matter and communicate to the Director of the US Fish & Wildlife Service the need to use facts and science in establishing its policies, and seek a fair and unbiased decision on the cormorant plan, consistent with the MBTA and the bilateral treaties with foreign nations on which this statute is based.

Further, we urge that you give consideration to a full and thorough review of the Service’s overall management and direction in recent years, including its willingness to recommend and apply non-lethal solutions to human-wildlife conflicts. The importance of this agency’s independence and integrity in preserving and protecting our nation’s natural legacy cannot be overstated.


Andrew Mason,
Conservation Chair,
Audubon Society

Michael Markarian, Executive Vice President,
The Fund for Animals, Inc.

John W. Grandy, Ph.D., Senior Vice President,
Wildlife Programs,
The Humane Society
of the United States

Peter Muller,
League of Humane Voters

Rhea Jezer,
Sierra Club

Anne Muller,
Wildlife Watch, Inc.

Please see Waterfowl, for more letters and Schumer’s action!


Contact Us

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561