$1,000 Reward Offered For Cormorant Killers

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(08/05/1998) - In response to the "senseless and illegal" slaughter of more than 800 double-crested cormorants on a small island in eastern Lake Ontario, Defenders of Wildlife is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the responsible parties. The killings are a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Defenders reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife intends to prosecute the case federally.

"This slaughter is both senseless and illegal. This is the latest case in which people concerned about declining fishing opportunities went looking for a scapegoat," Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife, said today. "There is absolutely no credible science to back up the claim that cormorants are responsible for the overall decline of sport fishing."

Cormorants and other fish-eating birds have come under attack in recent years because they are perceived as a threat to the ailing sport-fishing industry. Certain sport fish stocks are declining at the same time double-crested cormorant populations are increasing, and some fishermen presume the two factors are intrinsically linked. Numerous scientific studies, however, indicate that cormorants do not rely on any sport fish species as their main dietary source.

Biologists from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) found the massacred birds last Wednesday during a routine weekly visit to Little Galloo Island, one of the nation's largest cormorant rookeries, to collect data for an ongoing study of the diets of nesting cormorants. They discovered more than 840 cormorants shot to death along with at least 100 crippled adults and orphaned young. It is believed that the slaughter occurred at night when the roosting birds were concentrated on their roosts. A similar attack on the same island in June left 100 cormorants dead. According to the DEC, with 10 percent of the population now destroyed, the completion of the dietary study will be slowed and this will make the process of determining a sound management decision much more difficult.

In response to this perceived threat and complaints by sport-fishing organizations, federal legislators have considered amending the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to allow the hunting of cormorants by removing their federally protected status. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, enacted in 1918 in response to widespread killing of birds for their feathers, has been instrumental in bringing numerous species of migratory birds back from the edge of extinction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is offering payment for information. To report information about the killing of cormorants on Little Galloo Island, call one of the following: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 518-431-4341; New York Department of Environmental Conservation, 315-785-2231. Calls can be made confidentially to 1-800-TIPP-DEC.

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Contact(s):

Joan Moody, 202-682-9400 x220 Media
Bob Ferris, 202-682-9400 x229 Species