Ontario government proposal is not a wildlife management program, it’s an eradication plan that will push cormorants back to brink of extinction in the province
The Government of Ontario is setting the stage to make what is probably the worst, most regressive, wildlife management decision in Canadian history and one that will drive an important, ecologically beneficial native waterbird back to the brink of extinction, or worse, in the province.
A recent Environmental Registry of Ontario posting announced that the Government is seeking input on a proposed change to the province’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act that will:
▪ designate double-crested cormorants as a “game” species,
▪ create a provincewide annual hunting season from March 15 until Dec 31,
▪ allow Ontario Outdoors Card and small game hunting license holders to kill up to 50 cormorants per day (1,500 per month or more than 14,000 per season), including nesting parents and,
▪ allow the carcasses to spoil (i.e., rot).
The Government’s proposal would:
▪ allow the wholesale, uncontrolled, impossible to monitor, slaughter of cormorants across the province,
▪ devastate and possibly eradicate a recovered native wildlife species,
▪ cause damaging levels of disturbance and the destruction of numerous non-target bird species,
▪ irreparably damage natural ecosystems,
▪ encourage the worst form of “slob hunting,”
▪ endanger the public by allowing shooting throughout the summer season when lakes and natural areas are populated by Ontario residents and tourists.
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
The Government of Ontario says it is responding to concerns about too many cormorants, depleted fish stocks and environmental damage. But those concerns are largely just anecdotes, complaints from a small, radical segment of the fishing community, and unsubstantiated claims that were debunked long ago. There is no substantive body of evidence proving that cormorants are depleting fish stocks or causing any ecological problems whatsoever.
The reality is that cormorants are a natural part of Ontario’s rich biodiversity and an ecologically beneficial species, being major predators of invasive fish species, like round gobies and alewives, attracting other waterbirds to their nesting sites, and serving other important functions in the ecosystems they inhabit.
A RECOVERED SPECIES
Persecution by humans and pesticide poisoning all but wiped out cormorants in Ontario on two previous occasions but, in recent years, they have returned and populated those habitats that will support them.
Far from being overabundant, cormorant numbers are relatively modest, have stabilized and are dropping in some areas. The entire North American double-crested cormorant population is estimated to be less than the population of Toronto, with about 250,000 in the entire Great Lakes Basin and considerably less residing in Ontario.
Because they are conspicuous birds that congregate in colonies on exposed islands and peninsulas (only about 3% of potential island sites in the Great Lakes are suitable), they are particularly vulnerable, being easily targeted and killed, especially when nesting. Small congregations could be wiped out in just a few minutes or an hour, while larger colonies could be destroyed in just a few days or a week.
Radical cormorant-haters have already attacked colonies under cover of night, destroying nests, stomping on chicks and killing adults. Once the proposed changes to the law come into effect, these people will be given free rein to destroy as many cormorants as they want. It wouldn’t take very many people very long to wipe out most cormorants in the province, leaving just a tiny remnant of their population in a few protected areas. And driving them back to near extinction or even worse in Ontario is a real possibility.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP!
1. COMMENT ON THE ENVIRONMENTAL REGISTRY POSTING. There’s a 45 day comment period which is up on January 3rd , so please SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS ONLINE TODAY. You can also send your comments by mail to: Public Input Coordinator, Species Conservation Policy Branch, 300 Water Street, Floor 5N, Peterborough ON K9J 8M5.
2. WRITE TO THE PREMIER. Let Premier Doug Ford know what you think of the plan to allow the mass killing of cormorants in Ontario. Use the PREMIER’S WEBSITE FEEDBACK FORM to provide your input. You can also write to: Premier of Ontario, Legislative Building, Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON, M7A 1A1.
3. CONTACT YOUR OWN MEMBER OF PROVINCIAL PARLIAMENT. It doesn’t matter what party they represent or what their views (pro or con) are. Let them know what an unnecessary, outdated, environmentally damaging, wasteful and cruel idea this is. Find out what they’re going to do about it. Find your Ontario MPP by CLICKING HERE.
4. SHARE THIS ALERT AND SPREAD THE WORD. Tell everyone you know who loves birds, wildlife and nature about what’s going on. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or, if you can, an Opinion Editorial or article. Make sure you mention your MPP and what they are doing, or not doing, to protect cormorants and other wildlife.
5. REQUEST AN ORGANIZING BRIEF. If you want to do more, email Zoocheck and ask us for an organizing brief. It provides ideas about how you can organize in your own community. You can devote an hour a week or whatever amount of time you want. It’s up to you.
6. SUPPORT THE FIGHT. Opposing this Draconian, destructive and completely unnecessary plan to allow the essentially uncontrolled killing of cormorants won’t be easy or cheap. That’s why we’re asking you to make a contribution of whatever you can afford in support of our efforts to protect cormorants. MAKE A DONATION NOW.
14 FACTS ABOUT THE ONTARIO CORMORANT ISSUE
1. The Ontario government’s proposal will allow individuals with a small game license to kill up to 50 cormorants per day. That works out to approximately 1,500 cormorants per month or up to 14,250 cormorants for the entire proposed annual hunting season.
2. The presence of cormorants benefits other colonial water birds, such as herons, egrets and pelicans, all of which are stable or growing where cormorants are found.
3. The mass killing of cormorants will not be beneficial. In fact, the process of killing them will force other bird species to vacate the colony sites they share.
4. There is no way to kill cormorants humanely. Even controlled, organized culls in other regions have resulted in large numbers of injured and crippled birds being left to die of their wounds or starve to death, including nestlings.
5. Cormorants are beneficial because their diet consists of very large numbers of primarily invasive fish, such as alewives and round gobies, as well as other non-commercial, non-forage species.
6. The mass killing of cormorants will damage the environment and disrupt natural ecosystem processes.
7. The return of cormorants, a native wildlife species, to the Great Lakes Basin is part of a natural process.
8. Cormorants are not overabundant in the Great Lakes. In fact, their numbers are modest, now stabilized and are dropping in many areas.
9. Changes in the composition of vegetation in and around bird colonies are a sign of vibrant, dynamic natural ecosystem processes.
10. The number of trees damaged or destroyed in colonial waterbird colonies across the province is miniscule and wouldn’t even equal the number of trees in a single modestly-sized woodlot.
11. Only a small number of islands (less than 3%) and peninsula sites are available for cormorants and other colonial waterbirds to nest on.
12. The mass killing being proposed by the Ontario government is a political response to anecdotes, unsubstantiated claims and complaints by a small group of radical fishermen, supported by special interest groups. There is no substantive body of scientific evidence supporting their position.
13. Instead of making cormorants a scapegoat for environmental problems they have nothing to do with, attention should be given to addressing the issues that actually do affect fish populations and aquatic environments, such as climate change, pollution, shoreline and habitat destruction, overfishing and a broad range of other issues.
14. The proposed designation of cormorants as game animals, along with a non-utilization exemption that allows the carcasses to rot should be an affront to every hunter who believes in sportsmanship, fair chase and ethics.