Cormorants

Sam Corden

There are renewed calls to kill cormorants in the Great Lakes. There are far fewer of these migratory birds left in the region after years of lethal control. But anglers and some congressmen say there are still too many and they eat too many fish. Conflict with these waterbirds is longstanding in coastal communtities where fishing is important and the birds nest by the hundreds or even thousands.

In 2004, there were almost 1,800 double-crested cormorant nests on Goose Island, a strip of land in northern Lake Huron about 500 feet wide and less than a mile long.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Some members of the U.S. House of Representatives are meeting in northern Michigan on Monday to discuss lethal control of a fish-eating bird. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Cormorants will be safe from sharp shooters in the Great Lakes this spring. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not ready to restart a program that allowed lethal control of the birds to protect sport fish, and the agency says it might be years away.

For more than a decade, the federal government allowed double-crested cormorants to be killed in 24 states in the eastern U.S. In the Great Lakes, it was mainly done to protect sport fish like perch and bass.

Ohio DNR

Colonies of Caspian terns are becoming harder to find in Lakes Michigan and Huron.

James Ludwig is an ornithologist who has studied migratory birds in the region since the 1960s and just finished a trip across the Canadian waters of Lake Huron. He says he found about 100 Caspian tern nests where he found more than 1,900 in 1995.

Ludwig says the situation for Caspian terns is similar in the Michigan waters of the upper Great Lakes.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has halted programs to reduce the number of cormorants in the Great Lakes region. The federal government and tribes in Michigan kill the birds to protect yellow perch, walleye and other fish. But the judge said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service overstepped its bounds when it authorized killing cormorants in more than 20 states.

Peter Payette visited the Les Cheneaux Islands in Michigan this week to talk to people who live there.

Michigan wildlife officials are pushing for more control of a fish eating water bird. They want to double the number of cormorants killed in Michigan each year, to about 20,000.

Cormorants nest in colonies on islands in the Upper Great Lakes and Canada, and they can gobble up a lot of fish.

But, some other researchers are not so sure killing more cormorants will mean more perch, walleye and bass for anglers.