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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Concerns growing over cormorant population

A controversial double-crested cormorant cull on Lake Ontario has been continued for two more years, ordered by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, the idea is to wipe out the breeding population at Presquile Provincial Park, which has skyrocketed from one pair in 1982 to more than 10,000 pairs at present.
Meanwhile, local concern over cormorants are on the rise because a colony on Ship Island in Lake Couchiching, and another at the north end of Lake Simcoe, as well as colonies in Georgian Bay, are growing fast. Last year, the Orillia city council sought corrective measures due to the cormorants' behaviour. A council motion at that time stated "cormorant populations are destroying fish, water quality and vegetation."

Cormorant destruction is so controversial that the MNR has issued its staff a "gag order" preventing them from discussing the issue. But, MNR officials say that property-owners may lawfully destroy cormorants on their own land if they are damaging property.

In 2002, a four-year MNR cormorant management package took shape. Culling of the birds was a main component. On May 5 this year, the Ontario government endorsed a continuation of the cormorant-cull program. In 2004, some 6000 of the birds were destroyed.

According to MNR officials, special scientific committees have recommended that culling continue into 2006.

Meanwhile, Canada Post is about to release a commemorative stamp featuring an image of a cormorant.

Cormorants on the Great Lakes were almost obliterated in the 1970s due to DDT and other contaminants

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