Should cormorants be killed to save salmon?

Cormorants eat salmon and steelhead in overwhelming numbers

The Columbia River near East Sand Island, July 25, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
The Columbia River near East Sand Island, July 25, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

EAST SAND ISLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — The Army Corps of Engineers has a plan to kill as many as 16,000 birds along the Columbia River in an effort to protect the salmon.

A double-crested cormorant, as seen on All About Birds (David Stephens)
A double-crested cormorant, as seen on All About Birds (David Stephens)

Double-crested cormorants feast on endangered populations of juvenile salmon and steelhead on East Sand Island, near the mouth of the Columbia River.

But those plans are not going over well with the public.

The Army Corps of Engineers said the problem is the birds, though opponents of the plan to shoot the cormorants maintain the salmon are in trouble for other reasons.

But the Corps said they have to do something to protect the salmon population.

“We’ve tried other methods to try to address the consumption problem and they don’t seem to be working,” said Joyce Casey with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Killing birds to save fish is not the answer, say opponents like the Audobon Society and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

“There are so many other areas of impact, not just the animals who eat a very small percentage of the salmon,” said Susan Hartland, the administrative director with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. “There are so many other impacts on these salmon we need to take into consideration and look at before we just continue increasing and adding the number of animals and types of animals we’re going to kill.”

Joyce Casey with the Army Corps of Engineers in Portland, July 25, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Joyce Casey with the Army Corps of Engineers in Portland, July 25, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

Opponents suggest focusing on the dams or habitat restoration or management instead of killing birds.

Casey understands that and said, “These are complex resource issues that we as a society are grappling with.”

“Bird removals,” she said, “have been used as a management technique for many years, particularly in other parts of the country.”

At the request of the Audobon Society, a longer period of public comment is in effect until August 19.

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