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Press Release

Coalition works with top Canadian lawyer to explore all options to end cormorant slaughter in Presqu'ile Provincial Park

Toronto, May 7, 2004: Animal Alliance of Canada, the Animal Protection Institute, Canadians for Snow Geese, Environment Voters and peaceful Parks Coalition has retained Clayton Ruby well-known Canadian criminal lawyer to end the slaughter of 6,000 cormorants on High Bluff Island, a nesting bird sanctuary in Presqu'ile Provincial Park or to prevent it from happening again.

"I have examined all the material made available by the Ministry, other jurisdictions and the scientists who are studying cormorants." said Clay Ruby. "I submit to you that the Minister has failed to apply due diligence in implementing such an extreme action. The 2002 management programme already in place, which includes egg oiling, harassment and nest destruction has not been implemented throughout High Bluff Island and was in place for less than a year when the Ministry suddenly created this crisis. There are legal and political options to pursue and we are exploring all of those."

"We asked the Environment Ministry to conduct an Environmental Assessment" said Ainslie Willock, Director of Canadians for Snow Geese. "The Minister decided not to proceed because the time it would take to do so would prevent the cull from taking place this year. She made this decision arguing that the Ministry had consulted with the public despite the fact that until 2004, culling was not considered an option."

"We believe that the Ministry is moving forward with the cull because of complaints from sport and commercial fishing interests who claim that the cormorants are eating all the fish and governments in the United States," said AnnaMaria Valaestro. "Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the Ministry shamefully vilifies cormorants suggesting that they negatively impact fish populations, ruin vegetation and pollute the waters."

"Presqu'ile was one of my favourite haunts, particularly during migratory bird seasons but no more," said Barry MacKay, Canadian Representative for the Animal Protection Institute, nature writer with the Toronto Star for 25 years, author of three bird books, illustrator for several bird guides.  "Instead of offering protection, the Ministry is 'at war' with the parks wildlife - culling deer, allowing hunting and now conducting a massive cormorant slaughter."

For further information call Clay Ruby at 416-964-9664, Ainslie Willock at 416-922-4554, Barry MacKay at 905-472-9731, AnnaMarie Valastro at 416-537-3212.

Media Highlight Notes

1. Exerpts from leaked Minister's Decision Notes - Ministry decision to cull cormorants made in 2000:

a) At present, neither MNR nor CWS have proof of significant effects on any value. This is because most of MNR's/CWS's monitoring programs are not designed to detect the kinds of effects that cormorants could be having.

b) Nevertheless, MNR and CWS scientists and biologists believe that significant effects at local scales are possible (and, in some areas, probable).

. Effects on local fish stocks are possible in some areas. These potential effects, even if significant, are unlikely to present a sustainability risk. However, they may be causing social and economic impacts. Two types of concerns have been identified.

. Potential effects on size of local fish stocks (i.e., the number of fish available to anglers) - The areas of greatest concern are eastern Lake Ontario & Lake Huron/Georgian Bay (i.e., part of Heritage Coastline). Detecting effects on fish stocks is challenging.

c) Potential effects on "at risk" plant and animal species and vegetation communities in some areas (e.g., Carolinian Islands of Lake Erie) are probable and likely pose a sustainability issue. Detecting effects on these values should be relatively easy.

d) Egg oiling and/or harassment are not likely to create large enough changes in cormorant numbers to enable the detection of effects on fish stocks in a 5-year study. Culling of large numbers of birds may be required.

e) Plan to undertake experimental control program beginning in spring 2001 using either culling and/or alternative experimental control measures identified this year.

2. Ministerial Arrogance:

a) EBR notice is in prep in event that there is direction to implement experimental control (as opposed to testing of control techniques) this year. However, time is extremely limited. (Minister's Decision Notes, 2000)

b) The Environmental Assessment Act and FWCA provide MNR with the authority to initiate experimental control (i.e., research) without ministerial approval and/or the need for a full EA. EBR notification is recommended. (IBID)

3. Disregard for Public Discussion:

A total of 7 documents have been released by the Ministry since the decision to cull was made (Minister's Decision Notes) in 2000. The documents are:

Announcement of the Cormorant Management Plan, May 2000
Media release announcing the Management Plan, May 2000
Presqu'ile Park Management Plan, October 2000.
Background on cormorant research and contol 2002
Presqu'ile Cormorant Management 2002
EBR requests for minor amendments of the Management Plan, 2003
Report on cormorant management at Presqu'ile, 2003

Of those 7 documents, culling is mentioned in only the Presqu'ile Double-crested Cormorant Management Plan and is not listed as a management option in the report. If fact the report said culling was considered and rejected as an option.

We submit that the ministry had ample opportunity to pup forward the proposal for public discussion but chose not to because of the controversial nature of the decision and the lack of scientific evidence to warrant such an extreme action. As the Decision Notes suggest, Ministry staff decided to set up the control as a research project to avoid having to consult with the Minister and to avoid having to conduct an EA.

4. Misuse & Abuse of Science:

Below are listed some of the scientific papers that call into question the accusations leveled against the cormorants by the Ministry. Ministry documents allude to the fact that cormorants reduce fish stocks; put at risk other wildlife and certain rare habitats; have negative impacts on water quality and odour; and transmit disease.

These papers challenge the assertions made by the Ministry that cormorants are a negative and destructive force in the environment. (Some of these papers lack dates because they were acquired through the internet. These papers will be available in full in our EBR submission).

. International Association of Great Lakes Research." (J. Great Lakes Res.
20(4):597-598, Internat. Assoc. Great Lakes Res., 1994:
. St. Lawrence River Fisheries Discussion Paper titled, Double-crested Cormorants - are they cause for concern?
. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources May 2000 Cormorant Research and Monitoring paper.
. A paper by P.A. Edwards and T.J. Stewart titled, Cormorants in the Vicinity of Presqu'ile Provincial Park and the Bay of Quinte.
. A paper by C. Korfanty, W.G Miyasaki, and J.L.Harcus, titled Review of the Population Status and Management of Double-crested Cormorants in Ontario.
. A paper written by John L. Trapp, Stephen L Lewis and Diane M. Pence titled Double-crested Cormorant Impacts on Sport Fish: Literature Review, Agency Survey and Strategies.
. A collaborative Canadian Wildlife Service, University of Minnesota, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife paper titled, The Double-crested Cormorant in Eastern and Central North America: A Summary of Status and Selected Research (authored by L.R. Wires, F.J. Cuthbert, D.V. Weseloh and D.R. Trexel).

5. No Environmental Damage

. There are no species "at risk" impacted by the presence of the cormorants on the island, in the park or in the province, including other colonial and non-colonial waterbirds and other bird species. The Ministry failed to consider the possibility that the presence of the cormorants may actually encourage other colonial waterbirds given that the cormorants were there first.

. The Ministry provides no proof that the cormorant colony on High Bluff Island will damage the Bushy Cinquefoil and Smith's Club-rush, described as provincially significant species. Nor has the Ministry considered either plant species significant enough to place them on the provincially "protected" species list.

6. Kill the Cormorants Anyway:

. The findings in Presqu'ile Annual Report on the Management of Double-crested Cormorants for 2003 do not justify the proposed cull. The report states, "In the eastern woodland, where management activities did not occur, 3,707 nests were built, and contributed substantially to the number of young that were successfully reared in 2003. Removing all nests from both woodlands would assist in halting further degradation of the forest ecosystem."

. The Ministry's own evaluation shows that in the initial year, 2003, there was a "62% decline in the number of nests that produced young in 2003" and the decline would have been even greater had the staff implemented the same non-lethal programme with 3,707 nests in the eastern woodland. To suggest a lethal intervention of such a magnitude again suggests that a cull was the Ministry's preferred option.

The Ministry's own evaluation shows that the harassment, egg oiling and nest destruction programme is working. However, the decision to cull cormorants was made in 2000, and the Ministry intends to shoot 6,000 cormorants, one of every nesting pair on High Bluff Island while subverting public input into the decision, regardless of the lack of science and whether other aspects of the control are working.

For more information on the Ministry of Natural Resources strategy:

To read the Coalition's response:
EBR Submission and briefing notes.


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