Protecting the Cormorants

By Allie Jarrell

Photo: Hans Stieglitz - Wikimedia Commons

In the 1970s, the use of the pesticide DDT threatened the existence of the double-crested cormorant, a seabird common to the Great Lakes region, resulting in the cormorant being placed on the endangered and threatened animal species list. The species has recovered, but since the resurgence of the population, cormorants have been blamed for the decline of certain fish species in the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Over the past decade, MNA has been involved in cormorant issues due to our four sanctuaries that contain six islands in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. These island properties are home to a variety of nesting birds, including pelicans, egrets and cormorants. It is MNA’s opinion that the current justification for federal cormorant control programs is not based on science, but rather by generalization and insufficient information and perceptions.

The combination of non-native fish species, ongoing pollution and the degradation of near shore habitats have negatively impacted native fishes and their spawning habitat. MNA believes these factors are likely results of the decline of the Great Lakes fisheries.

Photo: Marcus Saperaud - Wikimedia Commons

Consequently, MNA does not support efforts to oil eggs, shoot or otherwise kill cormorants for population control.  If cormorant control be must undertaken, it should be justified with scientific research and monitoring programs demonstrating a direct measurable ecological data showing the need for such programs.

MNA is committed to supporting the natural communities and ecosystems of Michigan, and believes that all native species have a niche to fill in the Great Lakes ecosystem. The removal of native species from an ecosystem aids the breakdown of the rest of the system.

Check out the DNR’s website for more background information on cormorant management issues in the Great Lakes region.