I was very disturbed to learn about a proposed provincial law, Bill 205, which has support from all parties. If passed, the bill will allow the indiscriminate hunting and trapping of double-crested cormorants, lifting their current protection under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1997.
Here are three myths about cormorants that need busting before the government considers passing Bill 205.
Reality: According to the Canadian Wildlife Service, less than two percent of a cormorant’s diet consists of sport fish. As Barry Kent McKay explains, “there is no empirical, scientifically determined indication that the fish consumed by cormorants have a significant, measureable negative impact on what is available to commercial and recreational anglers.” Cormorants are opportunity-based fishers – they eat what is most abundant and easily available which prevents them from depleting stocks of any one species.
2. Myth: The law needs to change to protect property owners.
Reality: Although it’s true that cormorants can cause damage to properties, the law already allows property owners to deal with this problem. Under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, property owners may harass, capture or kill wildlife that is causing or is about to cause damage to their property.
Reality: DDT use dramatically decreased cormorant populations in the 1960s. When DDT was banned, they made a comeback. The recent rise in cormorant numbers is the result of a recovery from a previously precarious position. In fact, it appears that cormorant populations have plateaued in recent years. Yet, many people still think they are over-abundant.
The current law already addresses extenuating circumstances with cormorant populations. Culls have taken place to protect sensitive areas and heritage sites. This case-by-case approach is much safer than lifting protection entirely. It allows us to be sure that intervention is justified before we take action.
Humans have caused the natural world considerable harm over the years. Allowing the indiscriminate killing of cormorants won’t undo that harm. Non-human lives matter outside of measurable value to humans. Bill 205 ignores that completely.
Castilleja is a member of the Ontario Nature Youth Council.