Please help us stop the imminent slaughter of cormorants on the Columbia River

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning to slaughter more than 11,000 Double-crested Cormorants — 15 percent of the entire western North America cormorant population. Cormorants will be shot out of the sky with shotguns as they search for food over the Columbia River estuary, or shot with rifles at close range as the birds tend to their nests on East Sand Island. In addition, more than 26,000 Double-crested Cormorant nests will be destroyed by either oiling of eggs or intentional starvation of orphaned nestlings.

The killing could start any day!

Photo by Rhett Wilkins

We need your help to continue to fight this unconscionable attack on these beautiful birds.

  • Please write the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and tell it not to issue the permits the Army Corps needs to move forward with its plan to kill cormorants – see below for more information
  • Please help fund the Bird Alliance of Oregon’s ongoing efforts to fight this slaughter

The Corps’ plan is a misguided effort to boost endangered salmon numbers in the Columbia River Basin. There is no question that endangered salmon need a boost, but killing cormorants won’t do much to help salmon. And it will devastate the birds by dropping their numbers to levels the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service itself defines as unsustainable.

The cormorants live and nest on East Sand Island, a globally significant Important Bird Area in the Columbia River estuary. It is currently the largest breeding colony of cormorants west of the Rockies, and this action could destabilize the entire population.

The birds do eat some salmon, but that’s not why the fish are in trouble. The real culprits are dams, pollution, habitat loss, and an array of other factors.

The cormorants are nothing more than scapegoats.

The Bird Alliance of Oregon has already announced it will sue the federal government if this slaughter moves forward, but we have one more chance to stop it from being permitted to go forward in the first place.

Please write the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and ask them not to issue the permits the US Army Corps needs to move forward with this slaughter. A sample letter and contact information are included below.

Thank you for helping to protect wild birds!

Letter Contact Information

Send letters to the following:

Sample Letter

Dear Secretary Jewell and Director Ashe,

I am writing to you to express my opposition to the proposed slaughter of 11,000 Double-crested Cormorants and the destruction of 26,000 cormorant nests on East Sand Island by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to issue the permits that would be required under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to allow this slaughter to move forward.

The Corps is proposing to shoot cormorants out of the sky with shotguns as they forage for food and with rifles at close range as they tend to their nests. The Corps also proposes to enter the colony multiple times to cover cormorant eggs with oil and to leave thousands of orphaned cormorant chicks to starve to death on their nests after their parents have been killed. This slaughter is inhumane, unsupported by the science, and will put Double-crested Cormorant populations in the Western United States at real risk.

Please consider the following concerns and deny the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Migratory Bird Permit Application:

  1. The proposed slaughter will put Double-crested Cormorant populations in the Western United States at real risk. The Corps is proposing to kill upwards of 15 percent of the Double-crested Cormorant population west of the Rocky Mountains. These populations are already an order of magnitude smaller than they were historically. The Corps Environmental Impact Statement confirms that the proposed slaughter will intentionally drop Double-crested Cormorant populations below levels that the Corps and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have defined as sustainable—the Corps defines sustainable population: as “a population that is able to maintain a long-term trend with numbers above a level that would not result in a major decline or cause a species to be threatened or endangered.”
  2. The proposed slaughter is inhumane. Thousands of Double-crested Cormorant chicks will be left to starve to death on their nests after their parents are killed. It is unconscionable for the Fish and Wildlife Service to intentionally permit the deliberate starvation of cormorant nestlings as a management strategy.
  3. The Corps should address the primary cause of salmon declines on the Columbia River – the Federal Columbia River Hydropower System – rather than scapegoating wild birds. The Corps has failed to sufficiently address the primary cause of salmon decline on the Columbia River, management of the Columbia River Hydropower System. The agency should focus on improving dam operations to benefit salmon rather than scapegoating wild birds. The Corps failed entirely to consider this option when it developed the agency’s Environmental Impact Statement, and the Corps last evaluated alternative dam operations two decades ago.
  4. The Corps has failed to explore non-lethal strategies to reduce salmon predation by Double-crested Cormorants. Numerous science-based organizations – including the Corps’ principle researcher on East Sand Island – have pointed out that the Corps never investigated the potential of dispersing the colony rather than killing thousands of birds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife should require serious consideration of non-lethal strategies before considering lethal strategies.
  5. The proposed slaughter will result in the killing of non-target birds and could cause the abandonment of the entire colony on East Sand Island. The Corps admits it will likely kill non-target birds such as Pelagic Cormorants and Brandt’s Cormorants. It also admits there is a significant risk that the disturbance caused by the proposed action could cause the entire colony on East Sand Island to fail, resulting in even greater harm to the species than is already being proposed.

I care about both salmon and birds, but this proposal will threaten cormorant populations in the Western United States while doing little to protect salmon. I strongly oppose the wanton slaughter of thousands of protected native birds on East Sand Island. I urge you to reject the Corps’ permit application.

Thank you for your consideration of this letter.