Newfoundland-relevant birds-in-the-news matters

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ILJones

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Jun 2, 2022, 11:07:54 AMJun 2
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Highly-pathogenic avian flu has been causing seabird deaths recently, especially gannets (worth keeping an eye out here, avoid handling carcasses):

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/strain-highly-pathogenic-avian-influenza-quebec-1.6474289

https://inews.co.uk/news/bird-flu-outbreak-scotland-seabirds-killed-spread-new-strain-1663281


Meanwhile, Gord Follett in an op-ed piece (abc nl) is calling for a cormorant hunt. Some of the claims in his article may require further scrutiny and fact-checking:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/follett-cormorants-1.6459212


ilj

Brendan Kelly

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Jun 2, 2022, 11:37:34 AMJun 2
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Unfortunately I believe the cormorant cull has been approved...

The aquaculture companies (mafia) always get thier way...

https://www.saltwire.com/atlantic-canada/news/newfoundland-and-labrador-to-implement-lethal-removal-of-double-crested-cormorants-100739530/

Brendan

ILJones

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Jun 2, 2022, 12:16:29 PMJun 2
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quote from the Saltwire article:
"The new control measures come in place after concerns surrounding the rapid increase of birds in localized areas negatively impacting native fish populations, causing property and environmental damage, and conflicting with other sea bird's nesting activity."

I'm not aware of any factual evidence for any of these^ 'concerns'. I was contacted by and consulted with the Wildlife Division at length a few months ago on cormorants and advised them of the science on these birds - there is no justification or benefit likely to arise from such a 'hunt' - and many likely problems related to public safety and disturbance to migratory birds. Apparently to no avail, sigh.

I would say now, if you are out canoeing or boating or hiking in NL in any month, wear blaze orange and keep your head down.

ilj

Paul Linegar

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Jun 3, 2022, 4:15:03 AMJun 3
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What measures are being taken to protect the Great Cormorants?

PL

ILJones

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Jun 3, 2022, 8:15:25 AMJun 3
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Wayne Barney of the Wildlife Division was on the Fisheries Broadcast yesterday, and was asked specific questions by the interviewer. He didn't seem to be able to answer these. He did imply that cormorants have some kind of ultra toxic droppings (they don't), that they are threatening native fish populations (they aren't), and need to be controlled to 'protect ecosystems' in central Newfoundland (an absurd piece of execrable misinformation), and (everyone panic) had been seen in the Waterford Valley in St. John's. This presentation, by a Newfoundland government official, would have been more believable if we had been told that the Loch Ness monster was invading Gander Lake, eating all the fish, and poisoning the water supply. I don't see this attitude being limited to Double-crested Cormorant, or even cormorants - these folks don't discriminate between species.

ilj

ILJones

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Jun 6, 2022, 11:47:14 AMJun 6
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I submitted a comment to the Fisheries Broadcast on the Wayne Barney Wildlife Division cormorant interview:

From: Ian L Jones
Date: Mon, Jun 6, 2022 at 12:35 PM
Subject: comment on cormorant story
To: The Broadcast
Cc:

Hello,

I listened with interest to the June 2nd story on culling Double-crested
Cormorants. Some of the statements made by Wayne Barney of the Wildlife
Division require some qualification and clarification.

First of all, controlling nuisance wildlife (including birds) that are
interfering with private property is a routine, legal, and standard
procedure, isn't it? So one wonders, why the special attention to this
one particular aquatic bird species, at this time?

Mr. Barney claimed that the guano of these birds is 'quite toxic' and
conflicting with water supplies. Concerns about wild bird droppings in
water supplies are general, for example thousands of seagulls frequent
Windsor Lake (our drinking water supply) in St. John's after feeding at
the nearby Robin Hood Bay landfill. The issue is microorganisms present
in gulls' and all other birds' droppings, not specific to cormorants,
and this is taken care of by routine treatment of drinking water.
Cormorants' droppings are no more toxic than those other birds, that
excrete their nitrogenous waste as uric acid (hence the whitish
appearance). It is fertilizer. To label it 'toxic' is wild exaggeration.
Double-crested Cormorants, like seagulls, puffins, turrs, tinkers and
terns have droppings, so their colonies are rather smelly. This doesn't
indicate an emergency here that would require special culls.

Mr. Barney went on to say cormorants are frequenting estuaries. So an
aquatic bird is frequenting estuaries along with other waterbirds
including gulls, terns, mergansers, kingfishers, Ospreys and Bald
Eagles. This is not a problem. A few cormorants are visiting Bowring
Park in the Waterford Valley here in St. John's, delighting local bird
watchers and possibly preying on introduced Brown Trout, Koi Carp and
Goldfish. There is no concern about an underabundance of Brown Trout on
the Avalon Peninsula, rather the concern would be about overabundance of
this invasive species, so again, if Double-crested Cormorants are eating
a few, no conservation concern. In Newfoundland we have a lot of ponds
with abundant stunted Mud Trout and Wininish - wouldn't thinning these
out in fact be helpful? Mr. Barney admitted there is no evidence for
cormorants affecting any Newfoundland fish population at this time (this
has been extensively researched scientifically elsewhere, with similar
results), and he was unable to identify any part of the province where
such a conflict has arisen.

Regarding provincial government 'concerns' about fish populations, it is
great news to hear the Wildlife Division is on to this. We do have an
extreme fish conservation problem in Newfoundland: it concerns wild
anadromous Atlantic Salmon that are verging on endangered. We know what
is causing this, and we know that predators (including fish-eating
birds) have little to do with it, and it is obvious from science what
action the province could take on aquaculture and gill nets, if they
were concerned, to solve this.

Mr. Barney spoke about controlling cormorant populations by shooting by
civilians, where they are a problem. Managing wildlife at the
population level is a complex procedure. It is unclear how members of
the general public shooting at cormorants could appropriately adjust
populations or in any way be helpful. What is the bag limit on these
cull permits? How will a precise count of birds killed be obtained.
How many loons, mergansers and other birds are going to get shot
accidentally? What is the Wildlife Division's desired number of
Double-crested Cormorants in Newfoundland, to manage for? Furthermore,
we have two cormorant species here, what about the other species, Great
Cormorant (a sensitive Newfoundland seabird that is not increasing),
what measures are being taken to protect this rare species from
indiscriminate shooting?

The Double-crested Cormorant is a conservation success story, its
population is recovering following bans on harmful pesticides, along
with Bald Eagles, Ospreys, pelicans, and many other aquatic birds, and
also birds of prey. This is happy news. The Wildlife Division should
be careful to keep their policies and announcements factual and based on
sound science and real conservation concerns, especially when related to
the Double-crested Cormorant.

ilj

Ian L Jones
Professor, Biology
Memorial University

www.mun.ca/serg

Alvan Buckley

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Jun 6, 2022, 12:25:51 PMJun 6
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Well said, Ian!
People are looking for a quick and easy solution to the complex problem of the fish decline.
Cormorants have become their scapegoat.

ILJones

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Jun 6, 2022, 12:30:13 PMJun 6
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An excellent, easy to read (three pages), 2021 review paper on the cormorant matter is here:

Cooke, S. J. 2021. A fisheries take on the fishy decision to implement a Double-crested Cormorant cull in Ontario. Avian Conservation and Ecology
16(2):16. https://doi.org/10.5751/ACE-02017-160216

If anyone is interested and can't view this online, e-mail me and I'll send you the .pdf

ilj
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