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
"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
b) Nevertheless, MNR and CWS scientists and biologists believe that
significant effects at local scales are possible (and, in some areas,
. Effects on local fish stocks are possible in some areas. These
potential effects, even if significant, are unlikely to present a
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
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
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,
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
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
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
. International Association of Great Lakes Research." (J. Great Lakes
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
. 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