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Animal Welfare Groups Sue to Block Killing of Cormorants

by Frederic J. Frommer, Associated Press
Environmental News Network, February 6, 2004

WASHINGTON -- Animal welfare groups sued the U.S. government Thursday to try to block new rules that permit the killing of double-crested cormorants, a hook-billed predatory waterfowl that is a voracious fish-eater.

The large, dark birds are prevalent throughout North America, with the highest U.S. concentrations in the Great Lakes area. The cormorants were nearly wiped out by the pesticide DDT in the 1960s and 1970s. They have made enough of a comeback to pose a threat to commercial fishing and fish farming, proponents of the new rules say.

Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed and issued a rule allowing state, federal, and tribal officials in 24 states to kill the birds to prevent decimation of fish populations.

The service also expanded an earlier rule, which had authorized fish farms to kill birds who threaten their business so federal officials could kill the birds at their winter roosting sites.

Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, cormorants and other birds cannot be killed unless authorized by the federal government, which is responsible for managing their populations.

The Fund for Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida filed their suit Thursday in federal court in New York City.

"Cormorants, like many other birds, eat fish to survive, and should not be punished for doing what comes naturally," said Michael Markarian, the fund's president.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, which estimates the North American cormorant population at 2 million, declined comment, citing policy against speaking about litigation.

The suit claims that the agency failed to justify the new rules and contends the birds are not responsible for declining sport fish populations.

But Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who has proposed a hunting season for cormorants, disagreed.

"They should talk to people in Lake of the Woods who have had islands destroyed," Peterson said, referring to a resort area on the Minnesota-Canada border. "What these birds do is eat two to three times their weight of fish in a day. They are very deadly predators."

Frederic J. Frommer, Associated Press
Animal Welfare |Groups Sue to Block Killing of Cormorants
Environmental News Network, February 6, 2004

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