Welcome to Sand Island. Today, more 40% of all double-crested cormorants in the West nest at East Sand Island, the only place on the Pacific Flyway where their population is growing.
PEER is trying to block a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plan to shoot 20,000 double-crested cormorants at short range as mating begins. The Corps has eschewed non-lethal alternatives, in part due to bureaucratic impatience, and in part because it is unknown where displaced cormorants would relocate. Rather than engage scientists to manage these conflicts, the Corps wants to hire snipers.
This cormorant eradication plan is a function of unintended consequences from prior human interventions. Dams along the Columbia-Snake River system operated by the Corps block the natural migration of fish. So, large hatchery populations of otherwise endangered salmon and steelhead are released into the lower reaches of the Columbia. This piscine smorgasbord has drawn growing populations of fish-eating birds, such as the Caspian tern, brown pelicans and cormorants to Sand Island, in the Columbia Estuary five miles from the Pacific.
To reduce loss of juvenile salmon and steelhead, the Corps wants to slash the 15,000 nesting pairs of double-crested cormorants on East Sand Island by nearly two-thirds. To kill this jaw-dropping number of birds, the Corps will engage teams of shooters from Wildlife Services to convert blinds and tunnels used for many years by scientists to monitor the largest rookery of its kind in North America into mass killing platforms. But the plan –
- Requires marksmen shooting with silencers and night-vision scopes to kill several hundred birds each night during the two weeks between when the cormorants arrive on the Island and when they start laying eggs.
- Does not explain how marksmen would exact this heavy toll without disturbing other fish-eating birds nesting on the Island, such as Brant’s cormorant, whose nests are intermingled with their double-crested cousins, amidst the world’s largest colony of endangered California brown pelican; and
- Is silent on where thousands of carcasses on the low-lying 50-acre tract will be disposed.
This would be the largest “culling” operation of its type ever undertaken. Help us take this crazy, crude and needlessly cruel plan back to the drawing board.