Cormorant cull on hold while province evaluates assessment request

Apr. 27/04 TORONTO (CP) -- The cull of up to 6,000 cormorants in Presqu'ile Provincial Park is on hold and may be put off until next year while Ontario's environment minister evaluates a request for an environmental assessment of the plan.
 An animal protection group called Canadians for Snow Geese has asked Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky to consider doing a full environmental review of the Natural Resources Ministry's decision to shoot the double-crested cormorants to control their population in the park.

 "There's not one reason to kill them except they don't like them," said Ainslie Willock, director of Canadians for Snow Geese, who filed the request for an environmental assessment on April 15.
 "That's the only thing I can come up with. They don't like them or there's political pressure from someone who has clout."
 "When you go out to slaughter half the population -- 6,000 birds -- yeah, we're going to fight like hell. It's absolutely wrong."
 The ministry's proposal for the cull claims the excrement from the birds, which nest in trees and on the ground, is killing trees and vegetation.
 That is putting other migratory birds in the park, which is a bird sanctuary, at risk.
 Willock said it's a natural process that the birds' excrement kills trees, and that the cormorants are not driving away other birds.
 She suggested fisherman are protesting the bird population since cormorants eat fish. However, they only eat a variety of small fish, not the fish desired by fisherman, Willock said.
 In 1982, there was only one cormorant nest in the park south of Brighton, Ont., but now there are more than 12,000 nests, the ministry said in its proposal.
 "The possibility is that the cull may not go ahead this year depending on when (Dombrowsky) makes her decision," Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay said Tuesday.
 Ramsay said the ministry wants the cull done by mid-May at the latest because after that the cormorants will likely have offspring.
 "If a cull were to go ahead it would need to be completed before the eggs were hatched," Ramsay said.
 "Because basically what you'd be doing is killing adults where there are chicks around, so you don't want to be doing that and creating orphans. That would not be on."
 However, Dombrowsky said she doesn't expect to make a decision "until beyond the end of May."
 As a result, the cull is on hold until she makes a decision.
 The request for an environmental assessment will be posted for 45 days on the Environmental Bill of Rights website, and during that time the public can submit input about the cull, Dombrowsky said.
 After that, the Environment Ministry will review the submissions and a decision about the environmental assessment will be made, she said.
 In 2003, the ministry tried to control the cormorant population in the park by oiling eggs, which prevents them from hatching, and destroying nests.
 However, the ministry has acknowledged those measures haven't worked, hence the need for the cull.
 Willock argued that oiling eggs will work over time, but the government hasn't followed that plan long enough.

Story originally posted at: