Federal Government Resumes Cormorant Slaughter on East Sand Island

Government Ignores its Own Analysis that Killing Cormorants Will Not Help Salmon


Last week the federal government resumed killing Double-crested Cormorants on East Sand Island in the Columbia River Estuary. Federal agents in boats used shotguns to kill 200 cormorants near the island. The Corps has indicated that it intends to continue killing cormorants in the coming weeks.

Profile of a Double-crested Cormorant on the water.
Double-crested Cormorant, Photo by Scott Carpenter

The killing comes six weeks after a court order forced the US Fish and Wildlife Service to release an analysis showing that killing cormorants at East Sand Island will not help salmon recovery. The analysis which was produced by US Fish and Wildlife staff was hidden from the public for nearly a year. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has resisted calls to withdraw the permits that it issued to allow the killing to proceed. It has also resisted calls for an investigation of why it ignored and hid its own science.

The killing also comes after documents released by the US Army Corps of Engineers under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) records request revealed that 2015 nesting population targets for cormorants on East Sand Island were reached back in June. In an email sent on June 23, US Army Corps Project Leader Robert Winter writes, “As I stated before, we have technically met our management goal for East Sand Island this year due to the lack of birds showing up this year but we will continue to look for culling/egg oiling opportunities.”  (See attached) The Corps has never publicly acknowledged that the nesting colony population dropped this year or explained why it is continuing to kill cormorants and oil eggs if targets were reached in June. In fact, the Corps has shrouded the activity on and around the island in secrecy and rejected multiple requests for independent observers.

“The federal government has arrogantly continued forward with the slaughter of protected wild birds, ignoring its own analysis which shows killing cormorants won’t help salmon and despite that fact that it reached its 2015 population targets months ago,” said Bird Alliance of Oregon Conservation Director Bob Sallinger. “It is impossible to view this activity as anything other than a wanton slaughter and a waste of taxpayer money. The government should stop killing cormorants immediately and initiate an investigation into why it buried its own analysis.”

The Bird Alliance of Oregon and other conservation groups have sued the federal government to stop the killing. The case is expected to be resolved before the 2016 nesting season. The Bird Alliance of Oregon and other conservation groups continue to call on the Corps and other federal agencies to stop the killing on East Sand Island and initiate an investigation as to why analysis by the US Fish and Wildlife Service showing that the killing would not help salmon recovery was ignored.

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Founded in 1902, Bird Alliance of Oregon is one of the oldest conservation organizations in the nation. It promotes the understanding, enjoyment and protection of native birds, other wildlife and their habitats through its conservation and environmental education programs, its 150-acre Nature Sanctuary and Nature Store in northwest Portland, and its Wildlife Care Center.

For more information, call 503-292-6855 or visit birdallianceoregon.org.