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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announces it will move forward with plan to slaughter 11,000 cormorants

March 20, 2015: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a final record of decision announcing it will move forward with the decision to slaughter nearly 11,000 Double-crested Cormorants and destroy more than 26,000 Double-crested Cormorant nests on East Sand Island.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announces it will move forward with plan to slaughter 11,000 cormorants

Double-crested Cormorant - Jim Cruce

March 20, 2015: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued a final record of decision announcing it will move forward with the decision to slaughter nearly 11,000 Double-crested Cormorants and destroy more than 26,000 Double-crested Cormorant nests on East Sand Island in the Columbia River Estuary.

Cormorants will be shot out of the sky with shotguns as they forage for food and with rifles at close range as they tend to their nests. The Corps still must obtain permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to commence the killing, and the Audubon Society of Portland urges the Fish and Wildlife Service to deny those permits. However, if those permits are issued, the Audubon Society of Portland’s Board of Directors has voted to sue the Corps and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to stop this unprecedented slaughter.

The Corps intends to kill 15 percent of the entire population of Double-crested Cormorants west of the Rocky Mountains. By the Corps' own admission, the slaughter will drive western populations below a level that it has defined as sustainable.

“We are deeply disappointed that despite more than 145,000 comments opposing this decision, the federal government has chosen to move forward with the wanton slaughter of thousands of protected birds,” said Audubon Society of Portland conservation director Bob Sallinger. “Rather than addressing the primary cause of salmon decline, the manner in which the Corps operates the Columbia River Hydropower System, the Corps has instead decided to scapegoat wild birds and pursue a slaughter of historic proportions. Sadly this will do little or nothing to protect wild salmon but it will put Double-crested Cormorant populations in real jeopardy.”

Although the Corps asked the public for comments on the Final Environmental Impact Statement, it issued its final record of decision approving the killing of cormorants only five days after the comment period closed. This continues a pattern with the Corps of ignoring the public, ignoring the science and obfuscating the real causes of salmon decline for which they bear primary responsibility. 

“This has never been about birds versus fish,” said Sallinger. “This has always been about the Corps refusing to stand up and fix the problems that they created. Blaming wild birds that have coexisted with salmon since time immemorial is nothing more than a diversion.” 

Audubon Society of Portland believes the Corps should focus on the primary causes of salmon declines – including management of the federal hydropower system, habitat loss and hatchery fish – rather than scapegoating wild birds. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been tied up in litigation for more than a decade due to its ongoing failure to address the impacts of dams on salmon. In addition, the science on which the Final Environmental Impact Statement is based is remarkably weak both in terms of documenting the impacts of cormorants on wild salmon and also in terms of predicting the benefits of the proposed lethal control on salmon recovery. Finally, the proposed lethal control could have significant impacts on western populations of Double-crested Cormorants. The proposed killing represents 15 percent of the Double-crested Cormorant population west of the Rocky Mountains. Double-crested Cormorant populations in the west are an order of magnitude smaller than they were a century ago and the only place in the west where Double-crested Cormorant populations have seen significant increases in recent decades is on East Sand Island.

Audubon Society of Portland has been engaged with protecting birds on East Sand Island for more than a decade. The island is internationally recognized as an Important Bird Area and is home to the largest colony of Caspian Terns in the world, the largest colony of Double-crested Cormorants in the western United States and the largest Brown Pelican post-breeding roost on the West Coast. Audubon Society of Portland is committed to the recovery of federally listed salmon, but supports science-based strategies that address the primary causes of decline, not the persecution of fish-eating birds for simply doing what comes naturally. 

View the Audubon Society of Portland’s full comments on the final Environmental Impact Statement, and learn more about our work to protect birds on East Sand Island.

How You Can Help

The US Army Corps is no longer accepting public comments, but you can still make a donation to support our efforts to protect East Sand Island cormorants from horrific lethal control.


Double-crested Cormorant - Jim Cruce
Double-crested Cormorant - Jim Cruce
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