Ontario’s government scientists are upset with their own government’s proposal for a mass cormorant slaughter

CBC has used FOIA filings to winnow out considerable concern among scientists in Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MNRF) over the proposed new provincewide hunting season for double-crested cormorants. Those concerns echo the issues I raised in my submission of comments on the proposed measures, after the province posted them on the Environmental Registry of Ontario last November. I recently addressed the moral failure of the hunt in the March/April issue of UC Observer (“Cormorants aren’t the Devil”). I wrote a feature article on the cormorant controversy for Seasons (now ON Nature) in its Winter 2002/03 issue, which is archived online at my professional website.

There is no scientific evidence indicating burdensome cormorant predation on fish like perch to justify a province-wide slaughter of a native species. Regardless, a lot of recreational anglers have persuaded themselves that these birds have to go, and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) has pressed hard for sterner control measures. The MNRF measures would allow individual hunters to kill up to 50 birds a day, every day, from March to December, using a ten-gauge shotgun, from stationary boats if they like. Reclassifying cormorants as a “game species” with such a hunt is a joke. No one is going to shoot cormorants to eat them, and no game species is so totally mismanaged to the point that the intention of the proposed regs is to eliminate them. The MNRF acknowledges this reality in the proposal’s requirement to amend laws that prohibit hunters from leaving game animals where they fall to rot, although they would have to go back later and retrieve them. Good luck with this when it’s a mass slaughter of a rookery or an attack on flocks in open water. I am also greatly concerned about the prospect of hunters opening fire on water birds to this degree in waters like Georgian Bay that are full of recreational users.