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Federal rule expands state, tribal authority to control double-crested cormorants

The rule establishes a new special permit for state and federally recognized tribal agencies in the contiguous 48 states to undertake additional cormorant control activities when permissible under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

double-crested cormorant natdiglib_32812_full.jpg
Double-crested cormorant. (Photo/ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
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States and tribal agencies will have more ability to control fish-eating cormorants under a final rule and environmental impact statement the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday, Dec. 22.

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The rule establishes a new special permit for state and federally recognized tribal agencies in the contiguous 48 states to undertake additional cormorant control activities when permissible under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. States and tribes must use nonlethal methods before resorting to lethal control. The activities allowed under the special permit include controlling cormorants to help reduce conflicts with wild and publicly stocked fisheries within state or tribal jurisdictions. States also will have additional flexibility to manage cormorants at state- or tribal-owned hatcheries and release sites.
The new special permit complements existing measures to address conflicts with double-crested cormorants to protect human health and safety, personal property and threatened and endangered species, FWS director Aurelia Skipwith said.

Cormorants can have negative impacts on wild fisheries, fish hatcheries and aquaculture facilities, resulting in substantial economic impacts and human health hazards. The impacts also affect the country's National Fish Hatchery System, which contributes to many conservation efforts as well as angling opportunities for the 58 million recreational anglers and associated economies across the U.S.

The FWS collaborated with state fish and wildlife agencies, tribes and other federal partners in developing the rule. Double-crested cormorants are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, making lethal control illegal without explicit authorization from the FWS.

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The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies supports the rule, “which provides the needed flexibility for state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies to effectively manage cormorants,” said Sara Parker Riley, association president and director of the Missouri Department of Conservation. “We look forward to working with our federal partners to balance our conservation responsibilities while working to reduce human-wildlife conflict.”

The final rule will be effective 45 days after publication in the Federal Register, the FWS said.

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