U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Issues Notice to Increase Cormorant Removals

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), who serves on the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, today welcomed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) action to increase the ability of catfish farmers and other aquaculture producers to combat predatory birds that consume millions of dollars of fish every year.

Hyde-Smith, who has been working with the U.S. Department of the Interior on predatory bird controls, said the FWS has published a notice in the Federal Register to allow the removal of nearly 23,000 more double-crested cormorants annually.  Overall, the notice increases the annual maximum allowable take of double-crested cormorants from 51,571 to 74,396 per year through individual depredation permits.

“This notice recognizes that cormorants represent a substantial economic threat to aquaculture operations in Mississippi and other states.  Increasing the maximum allowable take will begin to help producers protect their investments,” Hyde-Smith said.  “I appreciate the effort that has gone into this agency action and look forward to working on other long-term solutions to avian predation problems.”

“Healthy cormorant populations have led us to adjust our take provisions and restrictions,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.  “These actions are fundamental to properly balancing cormorant populations with the needs of aquaculturists.”

The FWS will next work to issue individual depredation permits to provide relief for aquaculture facilities experiencing direct economic losses from cormorants across 37 central and eastern states.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates double-crested cormorants cause more than $25 million in damage annually for the catfish and aquaculture industry.

The FWS will also assess cormorant survey data and update the model at least every 10 years to ensure the authorized take level does not have a significant impact on cormorant populations.

Within the Senate FY2020 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, Hyde-Smith secured increased wildlife damage management funding and report language regarding the development of methods to assist aquaculture producers combatting the persistent threat and economic hardship caused by cormorants, pelicans, and other birds.

In early November, Hyde-Smith signed a bicameral letter requesting the FWS to streamline the permitting process to give livestock and aquaculture producers greater flexibility in protecting their animals from avian predators shielded under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Review the Federal Register notice here.