Our Great Lakes’ fisheries are in jeopardy if Cormorant Control Act HR 4429 isn’t passed.

HR 4429 would restore the authority for lethal control (depredation) of cormorants. A two-year stay on the act was placed in 2016 when a U.S. District Court ruled that the US Fish and Wildlife Service had done an inadequate environmental review of ongoing cormorant control efforts, effectively stopping this program that is essential to the health of our Great Lakes’ fisheries.

U.S. Rep Jack Bergman, Michigan, has taken up this issue and is fighting for Michigan fisheries in D.C. Bergman understands the importance of our Great Lakes, their fisheries and the economic impact a collapse of those fisheries could cause should cormorants not be controlled.

Cormorants are currently a federally-protected, fish-eating bird.  From the early 1970s to 2000, cormorant numbers increased from near zero to 115,000 birds in Michigan waters alone.  The Great Lakes regional population was estimated to be 326,000 birds in 2009. The vast majority of these cormorants reside in Lakes Michigan and Huron. Michigan hosts about 55 percent of the interior population’s breeding pairs and can be considered “ground zero” for negative impacts from cormorants.

Research has firmly established the linkage between cormorant predation on fish populations and the decline in their fisheries, according to a 2003 survey by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This research laid the framework for a Public Resource Depredation Order (PRDO) that provided cormorant control options to the states and the US Department of Agriculture.

Science should dictate the management of the cormorant population in Michigan: If we have too many, and they are depleting one of our state’s greatest resources, and we aren’t doing anything about it — that isn’t science, said Michigan United Conservation Clubs Executive Director Dan Eichinger.

“MUCC strongly supports this legislation and is grateful to Congressman Jack Bergman for his leadership on this issue,” Eichinger said. “Restoring management control authority for cormorants will enable our professional wildlife managers to do what they have successfully done for over ten years:  balance our population of cormorants in a way that is not destructive the sport fishery in Michigan.” 

Specifically, cormorants diets consist mostly of alewives and round gobies (forage fish) but also significant numbers of stocked trout, salmon, and highly-valued smallmouth bass and yellow perch. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a cormorant will consume about one pound of fish per day.

Michigan cannot afford to see more of its diminishing Great Lakes perch and forage fish supplies become prey of rising cormorant numbers.  Furthermore, stocking of trout and salmon can become impractical when cormorant numbers at the stocking sites become excessive. Thus, the USFWS decision not to immediately revise the environmental assessment and re-establish depredation orders brings cormorant management to a standstill and threatens many important Great Lakes fish populations and recreational/commercial fisheries.

MUCC strongly supports HR 4429 in Congress to direct the Secretary of the Interior to restore the Public Resource Depredation Order and the extension of the timeline for these orders.

Much of Michigan’s congressional delegation has signed on with Congressman Bergman to cosponsor.  If you are represented by Congressman Huizenga, Moolenaar, Walberg, Upton, Bishop or Mitchell, please call or email them to thank them for their support.  If your member of Congress is not on that list, please reach out to their offices and encourage them to sign on as cosponsors of HR 4429.