Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News
ONTARIO — The Peaceful Parks Coalition is coordinating opposition against open season on double-crested cormorants declared by the provincial government Sept. 15 through to the end of the year. Biologists have noted that most cormorants will have departed for the south by the end of October.
After reading a column questioning the need for the hunt in Nation Valley News, PPC’s Ana Valastro called from Toronto to say her group is building resistance across the province. Valastro is looking for volunteers along the St. Lawrence River to report hunts and cormorant kills.
There are affiliated groups in Kingston and in the Rideau Lakes keeping an eye on the process, Valastro said. At one time, there was a volunteer working out of Brockville but that’s no longer the case.
A native species automatically protected, that designation was removed to permit hunters to bag up to 15 cormorants a day in a “fall harvest” as long as they hold a valid license. They aren’t required to report their kills only to properly dispose of inedible carcasses… which opponents claim won’t always happen.
Valastro insisted cormorants have been much maligned as ugly nuisances that eat too much fish — robbing them from human anglers — and whose droppings destroy vegetation, some of the damage located within view of affluent cottagers.
In fact, the birds are beautiful and graceful, Valastro stated. For the most part, they eat non-game or commercial fish and cause limited damage to vegetation. Opponents have called the open hunt “reckless”, a “disgusting slaughter,” claiming cormorants have just reached a sustainable level after near decimation over decades.
They maintain problem areas should be managed humanely on a documented localized basis; and they point out that no useful data will be garnered from the hunt because results aren’t being recorded.
The Big Rideau Lake branch of PPC has reported shots fired and cormorants killed. The branch says there are only about 50 birds on the lake at the moment, members of a small resident colony. One cottager complained that cormorants are being unfairly vilified for everything from eating their weight in fish daily to driving out the loons.
“If you know who these hunters are, educate them,” the Big Rideau branch stated. “They’re not hurting our fish populations, nor are their numbers increasing.”
PPC in Kingston reported the number of cormorants on five islands has dropped from about 5,000 to 2,000 with the annual migration already underway. A volunteer discovered one dead bird but no hunters on site, possibly because winds make it precarious to approach the islands much of the time.
Valastro said she had little information on cormorant numbers east of Kingston and hopes to improve reporting from this area.