Cormorant reduction plan urged
Written by Watertown Daily Times   
Sunday, 02 October 2005 10:29
State Sen. James W. Wright and St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators Chairman Thomas A. Nichols are calling on the state Department of Environmental Conservation to develop a plan to control the cormorant population on the St. Lawrence River.

"The cormorant population along the St. Lawrence River continues to grow due to a lack of action on the part of the Canadian Government," Mr. Wright, R-Watertown, said in a press release. "With most of the cormorant nests located on the Canadian side of the river, DEC management in New York has been stymied. I am calling on the DEC to continue a dialogue with the Canadians to develop a management plan that sets an acceptable cormorant population on the river."

DEC has had, and will continue to have, a relationship with Ontario and Canadian authorities to deal with the problem, said Maureen F. Wren, an agency spokeswoman.

"The DEC appreciates the senator's ongoing interest in this topic," she said. "We want to ensure the public that we have no wish to stop discussions with Canada. We will continue to work with the senator and other interested parties in both New York and Canada as we explore all of our management options."

DEC recognizes that the state's ability to control the cormorant population is limited because most of the breeding pairs nest on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River, Mrs. Wren said.

"As a result of that, DEC is closely coordinating management and research efforts with representatives in Ontario to ensure a cooperative regional approach," she said. "Such an approach is crucial to the success of stemming the growth of the population and reducing the impact to New York state."

While DEC has used a number of means to try controlling cormorant numbers in eastern Lake Ontario near Henderson Harbor, including spraying eggs with oil to keep them from hatching, disturbing nests and even killing adult birds, the agency has not yet developed a plan for dealing with the St. Lawrence River population. Such a plan would require U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife approval because cormorants are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

DEC and Canadian officials have been working together to deal with the problem since 2004. Members of Mr. Wright's staff that year attended their first meeting.

"These actions will continue to build on the management of cormorants in Lake Ontario that DEC has initiated and that has shown significant progress in controlling the population," Mrs. Wren said.

Ontario provincial authorities had not seen Mr. Wright's press release, said Jinette Albert, a spokeswoman for province's Ministry of Natural Resources.

"Ministry officials have worked before on interjursidictional committees with New York state officials and will continue to do so," she said.

Mr. Wright said he is working with St. Lawrence County legislators to try dealing with the cormorant problem along the river before it becomes an even bigger concern.

"Working with Senator Wright, the Board of Legislators wants to be a full partner in calling upon the DEC to act on behalf of anglers and concerned citizens," Mr. Nichols, R-Oswegatchie, said. "Our fishery and tourism industry depends on it."

The number of double-crested cormorants, native to the Northeast, has grown significantly over the past few decades . The large waterbirds destroy other bird habitats and can hurt recreational and commercial fishing, according to the DEC.

The agency first became interested in controlling the cormorant population in the early 1990s, when the birds began feeding heavily on eastern Lake Ontario's smallmouth bass and yellow perch.

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