Hunting season for cormorants proposed by Natural Resources

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Public input sought

ONTARIO—The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is proposing the establishment of a hunting season for double-crested cormorants in Ontario and are calling for public input into the proposal. Local reaction to the news has been positive.

“This is very good news,” stated Chris Robinson, chair of the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club (GBFGC). “Cormorants have done a massive amount of damage to fish populations everywhere it seems (including Manitoulin area waters).”

Ian Anderson, a member of the GBFGC and chair of the former United Manitoulin Fish and Game Club told the Recorder, “this proposal will be of great interest locally and provincially, but I’m sure there will be some groups in the province that will be opposed to this.”

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“From a purely fisheries stocking standpoint, with the amount of fish and bait fish that cormorants have consumed over the years it is good news to have this in place,” said Mr. Anderson. “But what difference it will make I don’t know. Who is going to hunt them? As I said, I’m sure it is of interest locally and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and the Gore Bay Fish and Game Club, for example, have been pushing for cormorant control for a lot of years. It will be interesting to see how this all turns out.”

“We will be doing a full submission providing our input,” said Lauren Tonelli of (OFAH). “We have been pushing the government to do something about cormorants for a long time.”

“It’s a start,” stated Ms. Tonelli. However, “what is being proposed won’t address the ecological concerns as it stands, and areas like city waterfronts which have been targeted by cormorants are areas where  hunters still can’t hunt.”

“It is a start, but what we would like to see is a full management plan in place,” said Ms. Tonelli.

Drew Purvis, of Purvis Fishery in Silver Water said, “yes, it is good news. They (cormorants) have already eaten everything it seems.” The proposal, “will be good for the North Channel.”

Mr. Purvis pointed out his father George is on the Great Lakes Fishery Commission which has been pushing for cormorant controls. “It should be good for fishing populations in general.”

Bill Strain, of the Little Current Fish and Game Club said, “I’ll be surprised if it ever happens (controls). But I sure hope it does.”

“It is no doubt good news,” said Mr. Strain. “The numbers of cormorants around here seem to be down, but they are still there. I think they go up to the rivers in the north then come back to areas like ours in August, and you will see four or five flocks of 20-50 birds, and out toward areas like Heywood Island. Once they exhaust a food source in one area they move on.”

The MNRF, as posted on the Environmental Registry (Number 013-4124) noted the proposal is “to establish a hunting season for double-crested cormorants in Ontario. The proposal was loaded to the registry on November 19, 2018. This notice was updated on November 20, 2018 to direct people to new Environmental Registry of Ontario. Comments already submitted do not need to be resubmitted.”

There is a 45-day period for submissions from members of the public, with submissions to be made between November 19, 2018 and January 3, 2019.

In the description of the policy, “Double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) populations declined significantly in the Great Lakes from the 1950s to the 1970s primarily due to environmental contaminants affecting reproduction. Their numbers began to increase rapidly from the 1970s to the early 2000s, with the latest information indicating Great Lakes populations have since stabilized or declined slightly.”

“There continues to be concerns expressed by some groups (commercial fishing industry, property owners) and individuals that cormorants have been detrimental to fish populations, island forest habitats, other species and aesthetics,” the proposal continues. “To respond to these concerns, the Ministry is proposing to create a hunting season of double-crested cormorants beginning in 2019.

1). List the double-crested cormorant as a “game bird.” Hunters would be required to have an outdoors card and small game licence to hunt double-crested cormorants, similar to other species of game birds; 2) Create an open hunting season for double-crested cormorants from March 15 to December 31 each year across the province; 3) Create an exemption allowing small game licences to be valid for double-crested cormorant hunting in central and Northern Ontario from June 16 to August 31 each year; 4) Establish a bag limit of 50 cormorants/day with no possession limit; 5) Prescribe shotgun and shot size/type requirements consistent with migratory bird hunting regulations outlined in the federal Migratory Birds Regulations. This would include use of shotguns that are not larger than 10 gauge, that cannot hold more than three shells and use non-toxic shot as described in the migratory bird regulations; 6) Allow hunting from a stationary motorboat.”

“The Fish and Wildlife Act currently prohibits anyone who kills game wildlife (including game birds), or who possesses game wildlife killed by hunting, from allowing that meat to spoil. Via this posting, the ministry is also consulting on a proposal to amend the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act to add provisions to the Act, so that persons who lawfully hunt (or possess) cormorants could be exempt from this requirement and would be subject to conditions that require the person to retrieve and dispose of the carcass. Should this proposal proceed, if may be accompanied by regulations to implement the exemption and requirements.”

To accompany the proposed hunting seasons, the Ministry will implement a cormorant monitoring program to assess population status and trends. Monitoring of cormorants will allow the Ministry to assess the impacts of the hunting season and to adjust cormorant hunting regulations if necessary to address any concerns about population sustainability.

The Ministry intends to amend the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and supporting regulations (including Ontario Regulation 670/98 Open Seasons, Ontario Regulation 665/98 Hunting) to implement the proposal should it proceed.

“The anticipated environmental consequences of the proposal are expected to be neutral depending on levels of hunter participation,” the proposal adds.

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