16,000 Cormorants of East Sand Island to Be Shot Dead to Save Endangered Salmon
A proposal to kill half the large colony of cormorants in the Columbia River estuary is being considered by the Federal officials. The proposal comes up as the preferred action of the draft management plan that was released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday.
The whole thing is an effort to improve the survival of endangered juvenile salmon and steelhead on the island. Cormorants is a black seabirds that increasingly nests' on East Sand Island, and feeds on juvenile fish swimming out to the Pacific Ocean. Their increasing populations have had the strongest impact on juvenile steelhead, eating about 3.6 percent of the migrating population each year. It is about 11 million juvenile salmon per year that are eaten by cormorants.
The fish is listed as an endangered species. Army Corps of Engineers since 1997 has been actively involved in observing the juvenile salmon population in the Columbia.
Taking consideration of the reducing salmon numbers they have come up with a $1.5 million-a-year program that is planned over a period of four years under which federal trappers would be armed with silenced rifles and night-vision scopes to shoot the birds during their nesting season. Also, the bird's eggs will be covered in oil so as to reduce the chances of hatching. All this will be done till the target colony size is attained.
Environmental advocates have severely criticized the plan. "This is a crazy, crude and needlessly cruel plan that should go right back to the drawing board. This operation represents an extreme militarization of wildlife management. Cormorants do not need to be treated like terrorists simply because they eat fish", said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
In response to this the Corps says that they have looked into other methods as well such as hazing with lights and using human presence to flush cormorants off potential nesting sites, but these won't be effective.