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Court permits cormorant slaughter to move forward

May 11, 2015: On Friday afternoon, Federal District Judge Michael Simon denied a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop cormorant killing in the Columbia River Estuary before the court rules on a lawsuit to permanently stop the killing filed by Audubon Society of Portland, Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Friends of Animals and Wildlife Center of the North Coast. It is expected that the federal government will initiate the slaughter of several thousand birds and an additional several thousand active nests within days.

Court permits cormorant slaughter to move forward

Double-crested Cormorant - Jim Cruce

May 11, 2015: On Friday afternoon, Federal District Judge Michael Simon denied a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop cormorant killing in the Columbia River Estuary before the court rules on a lawsuit to permanently stop the killing filed by Audubon Society of Portland, Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Friends of Animals and Wildlife Center of the North Coast. It is expected the federal government will initiate the slaughter of several thousand birds and an additional several thousand active nests within days.

In issuing his ruling, Judge Simon stated explicitly that he was not ruling on the merits of the lawsuit. Instead, he focused very specifically on the need to demonstrate irreparable harm, one of the requirements to obtain a preliminary injunction. Judge Simon pointed to the fact that the killing is spread across four nesting seasons and therefore is unlikely to impact cormorants at a species level during 2015. He acknowledged plaintiff’s concerns that the lethal control activity within the nesting colony – including shooting, egg oiling and carcass collection – could cause nest colony collapse, but refused to stop the activity because this outcome was speculative.

“We are very disappointed in the court’s decision,” said Audubon Society of Portland conservation director Bob Sallinger. “For the 3,489 cormorants that are scheduled to be shot and 9,368 active nests the Corps plans to oil, destroy or starve, the losses will absolutely be irreversible.”

Plaintiffs allege the Corps is scapegoating wild birds for salmon declines while failing to adequately address the primary cause of low fish numbers, the manner in which the Corps operates the large federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Plaintiffs also allege the Corps has failed to demonstrate that killing cormorants will significantly increase adult salmon returns, but the agency’s own calculations show the planned killing could drive western populations of Double-crested Cormorants below sustainable levels.

"Our center is deeply saddened by the Court's ruling to allow this year's killing of Double-crested Cormorant adults, their chicks and eggs as well as non-target birds,” said Sharnelle Fee, executive director of the Wildlife Center of the North Coast. “Blind persecution and absence of strong scientific justification amplifies the unnecessary pain, suffering and death this cormorant colony will experience."

The plaintiffs will proceed forward with the lawsuit. Judge Simon indicated he believes the entire lawsuit could be concluded before the start of the 2016 cormorant nesting season. We will also be chartering boats in order to track activity on East Sand Island as closely as possible to document the impacts on the East Sand Island colony and try to ensure that government agencies are held accountable if permit levels are exceeded. Tracking federal activities on East Sand Island to date has been a challenge due to a lack of transparency by the federal agencies. Citing the dubious claim that the secrecy is necessary to protect the birds, the government has explicitly rejected requests by plaintiffs and media to be allowed to directly observe the control activities.

The plaintiffs in this litigation are Audubon Society of Portland, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of Animals, and Wildlife Center of the North Coast. Plaintiffs are represented by Dan Rohlf and Earthrise Law Center.

Media Contacts

Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director, Audubon Society of Portland | 503-380-9728 | bsallinger@audubonportland.org
Dan Rohlf, Of Counsel, Earthrise Law Center | 503-768-6707 | rohlf@lclark.edu
Sharnelle Fee, Director, Wildlife Center of the North Coast | 503-338-0331 │ director@coastwildlife.org

How You Can Help

Please make a donation to support our efforts to protect East Sand Island cormorants from horrific lethal control.

Background

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers intends to kill nearly 11,000 Double-crested Cormorants and destroy more than 26,000 Double-crested Cormorant nests on East Sand Island, located at the mouth of the Columbia River. Why does the Corps want to kill these birds? For doing what comes naturally, eating fish.

It is time for the U.S. Army Corps to do a ground-up review of its entire approach to managing birds in the Columbia Estuary. The focus for recovering salmon on the Columbia River should be on addressing the primary causes of salmon decline - dam operation and habitat loss - not on killing thousands of birds that have co-existed with salmon since time immemorial. Learn more about cormorants on East Sand Island.

Related Stories

April 20, 2015: Lawsuit filed to stop cormorant slaughter by federal agencies
April 14, 2015: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approves slaughter of Double-crested Cormorants
March 20, 2015: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announces it will move forward with plan to slaughter 11,000 cormorants


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