Cormorant Hunt Proposed in Ontario

Ontario wants to allow hunters to shoot double-crested cormorants – an idea welcomed by sport anglers who think the fish-eating birds are destructive in the Great Lakes. The proposal from the Canadian Ministry of Natural Resources also claims the birds are a threat to commercial fishing.

The plan would allow a licensed hunter in Ontario to shoot as many as 50 cormorants per day during the open season, which would run from March 15 to Dec. 31. Ontario also wants hunters to be able to leave the dead birds where they fall, rather than requiring them to retrieve their kills.

Double-crested cormorants have been controversial in both Canada and the U.S. for decades. Government agencies in both countries have used lethal force to reduce the population across the Great Lakes. However, there has never been a legal hunt for cormorants in the region since the bird was added to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1972.

Anglers say that without control through management or hunting, cormorants will destroy fishing in places where the birds nest by the thousands. The debate has been heating up in the U.S., too, where sport-fishing groups are urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to do more to curb the population.

Cormorant numbers exploded in the Great Lakes during the latter part of the 20th century, reaching their peak around 2007. Control measures, which include shooting birds and oiling eggs so the chicks never emerge, have cut the population by more than half in some places.

Advocates for bird control warn that cormorant numbers will explode again. Last winter, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources told the U.S Congress that numbers jumped by 85 percent in just two years in the Les Cheneaux Islands, where the birds have harmed perch fishing.

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