Saturday Shoutout / Nat Geo on Killing Cormorants

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Photo Jim Wilson NY Times/Redux, via National Geographic

Photo Jim Wilson NY Times/Redux, via National Geographic

Should U.S. Government Kill Thousands of Birds to Save Salmon?

I generally down on killing thing, but I’m willing to make an exception for these guys.

This is a topic I’ve struggled with for some time. I’ve thought about writing on it many times but have never felt like I had enough facts to move forward. Fortunately for me, National Geographic has taken care of it for me, or at least started.

This article takes a hard look at the decision to kill a vast number of cormorants in the Pacific North West. These birds are dramatically effecting salmon runs and the step has been carefully taken to protect these fish who are already in grave danger.

I’m personally excited to hear of it and I hope it will be a precedent. I’m not just choosing fish over birds but the truth is that cormorants are an invasive species. Protected nationally because they were a gift to Harry Truman’s wife from the Emperor of China, if I have the story right.

The North West is not alone in their cormorant troubles. They are reeking havoc on baby tarpon habitat in the Florida Keys. They are turning up everywhere and it’s an issue we should all have our eyes on. So I’ll turn it over to Nat Geo for the hard science.

Check out: Should U.S. Government Kill Thousands of Birds to Save Salmon?


Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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11 thoughts on “Saturday Shoutout / Nat Geo on Killing Cormorants

  1. Wow. Terrific topic. The “invasive species” aspect is most interesting and one, if true, that could set these birds apart from otters, herons, and all the other skillful predators out there. Have to think about this one, and it will be interesting to see how it develops.

    You are always interesting and provocative, Louis. Thanks.

  2. While I don’t necessarily disagree with the management decision here I just wanted to add that the Double-Crested Cormorant, which is the culprit here, is assuredly a native North American species. North America has 5 native cormorants (Brandt’s, Pelagic, Red-Faced, and Neotropic) with the Double-Crested being the most widely distributed across the US.

  3. Hi Louis, I was wondering if you could provide a link to the source of the information where you found out Double Crested Cormorants were an invasive species? I couldn’t find anything in the article, or through Internet searches that eluded to the fact that these birds are infact invasive.


    • I got that information talking,to flats guides on the boat. That’s why I added, “if I have the story right.” That’s also why I linked to the Nat Geo article, because the have the science on the subject. FYI, G&G is not a scientific publication. It’s a fly fishing blog covering topics of interest to fly fisherman. We are not scientist and do not do science.

      • I fully understand your not a scientific blog. I think you do a lot of great work and enjoy many of the posts you place on your blog.

        I’m not a scientist either that is why I asked for the clarification to make sure I was not wrong about Cormorants being a native species to the PNW, where I’m from.

        The issue I have with this one particular post is using an animal as a scape goat for the impact that we’ve had on Anadromus fish populations here in the PNW. Instead of spending Government dollars either side of the border to cull “problem species” as far as Salmon & Steelhead are concerned is incredibly short sited. If the same money was spent on habitat restoration and the removal of Dams that have out lived there usefulness, is far better use of money. If we decide to change our practices of resource extraction in watersheds we will go much further to restoring the runs of fish that used to be here in PNW. We have an abysmal record of “wild life management”, the current status of many of the rivers here attest to that fact. The sooner we change these old ways of thinking, that led to the demise of many rivers historical returns, the better off the fish will be.

        Thank you very much for the reply to my question. Despite my rant I am looking forward to your future Blog posts. Keep up the good work.


  4. I think there has to be a balance in nature, which can’t happen with aggressive invasive species like cormorants, snake-heads, Asian carp, pythons in the everglades etc. that have no natural predators here. On the other hand, restoring original predators like the wolf to Yellowstone has proven to benefit many animals and even plants in the natural world. I know of no natural predator to the cormorants so human intervention is inevitable to protect valuable natural assets like the salmon runs and tarpon fisheries.

    The grey area is where introduced species like the brown trout (which all came from Europe originally) have become an accepted part of the fish living in the USA. Native species like cutthroat trout cannot compete well against browns or introduced rainbows but those species also seems to do better at surviving in degraded habitats than the native cutthroat trouts. Restoring cutthroats to pristine environments makes sense but not to marginal habitats. It has to be studied carefully and decisions made by competent, knowledgeable parties.

    How about the awesome trout and salmon fisheries of South America? Should they be eliminated? They are all fabricated, unnatural fisheries brought about by mans stocking and fish farming but seem to have filled an empty niche in the the environment that benefits man, especially anglers, greatly.

    What about the cattle that have displaced native herbivores? We are a part of nature not apart from it and the most variable factor is us. We must take our stewardship seriously.

  5. I can only agree that these birds sadly need thinning out for the sake of the whole marine eco system. As far as I’m aware they have no natural predators.
    Living in Scotland I can sympathise with your situation over there , as we have a major problem here too. Even right in the centre of Scotland over 60 miles from the sea these greedy predators are jeopardising many trout fisheries and trout farmers also are suffering . We also need to be setting up some method of curtailing their numbers.

  6. I am from small country in mid of Europe. Like 10 years ago, those black birds appeared on one of my favorite grayling river; just few pieces at that time. They came from Baltic Sea to spend a winter. 2 years later there were thousands of birds. They killed all natural population of grayling and most of browns. Those years ago, there were catch more than 2000 graylings in a season. Do you know how much was fished last year? Exactly 7. Seven graylings. Cormorants were protected by law and could not be killed, even scared. It took long time until government understand that they should protect natural species instead of cormorants, which are not natural here. 3 year ago they approved to shoot them, but that was too late. Of course, you may have different situation if bird is natural, but you should be afraid when they will start to fly somewhere were they should not be.
    Human created unbalance in nature and should make some correction when nature is becoming unbalance due to him.

    Sorry for my English, but you may understand the point.

  7. Ok I have 2 very very odd and bi-polar views in this……

    (1) in new zealand … The rats… Leading to poison, is a disaster. No solution was better than the utter disaster they have…

    (2) in the US I have seen many effective examples of killing one animal to save another work perfectly. Invasive or not, when the cards favor one species over another,many practical and logical reasons apply and justify the action

    As always… A grey area

  8. So here’s the real question. . . . . WHAT INNOVATIVE FLIES CAN WE TIE FROM 40,000 CORMORANTS PELTS? Am I seriously the only one that’s had this thought?

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