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
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
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.
Ian L Jones