by Bob Sallinger, conservation director, Audubon Society of Portland
Last week the federal government resumed killing double-crested cormorants on East Sand Island in the Columbia River Estuary. Federal agents in boats used shotguns to kill 200 cormorants near the island. The Corps has indicated that it intends to continue killing cormorants in the coming weeks.
The killing comes six weeks after a court order forced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to release an analysis showing that killing cormorants at East Sand Island will not help salmon recovery. The analysis, which was produced by U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff, was hidden from the public for nearly a year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has resisted calls to withdraw the permits that it issued to allow the killing to proceed. It has also resisted calls for an investigation of why it ignored and hid its own science.
(See also Feds hid data showing that killing cormorants will not help salmon & steelhead, Conservation gets the bird at East Sand Island, California sea lions, starving in their rookeries, take heat for salmon losses, and The Double-Crested Cormorant: Plight of a Feathered Pariah.)
The killing also comes after documents released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under a Freedom of Information Act records request revealed that 2015 nesting population targets for cormorants on East Sand Island were reached back in June.
“When are we going to get back to removing birds?”
In an email sent on June 23, 2015, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project leader Robert Winter writes, “As I stated before, we have technically met our management goal for East Sand Island this year due to the lack of birds showing up this year, but we will continue to look for culling/egg oiling opportunities.”
The Corps has never publicly acknowledge that the nesting colony population dropped this year or explained why it is continuing to kill cormorants and oil eggs if targets were reached in June. In fact the Corps has shrouded the activity on and around the island in secrecy and rejected multiple requests for independent observers.
It is impossible to view this activity as anything other than a wanton slaughter and a waste of taxpayer money. The government should stop killing cormorants immediately and initiate an investigation into why it buried its own analysis.
Audubon and other conservation groups have sued the federal government to stop the killing. The case is expected to be resolved before the 2016 nesting season.
Audubon Society of Portland