FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Caroline Tabler or James Arnold (202) 224-2353
March 26, 2021 

Cotton, Boozman, Hyde-Smith, Tuberville Introduce Bill to Allow Fish Farmers to Protect Ponds from Predatory Birds

Washington, D.C. – Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi), and Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) introduced the Cormorant Relief Act, legislation that would fully restore the ability of catfish farmers and other aquaculture producers to cull predatory double-crested cormorant populations. The legislation (S.1050) would restore U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations to allow producers to fight the cormorants, which threaten the livelihoods of aquaculture operations in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and other states.

"Double-crested cormorants pose a significant threat to Arkansas's fish farmers, but unnecessary regulation currently prevents them from taking additional steps to protect their ponds. Our bill would once again give fish farmers the ability to adequately defend their fish populations from the birds that are eating into their bottom line," said Cotton.

“Arkansas’s aquaculture industry deserves protection from avian predators as well as regulatory burdens that harm their livelihoods. Fish farms lose millions of dollars each year as a result of cormorant predation, and it’s time to ensure they can combat this threat sufficiently. I’m proud to join my colleagues to give Arkansas’s fish farmers the tools to safeguard against this costly menace,” said Boozman.

“Bird predation costs producers millions of dollars every year. More must be done to give catfish growers and other aquaculture producers greater flexibility to undertake responsible management activities to control cormorant populations. This legislation would allow producers to stem losses associated with these birds,” said Hyde-Smith.

“Cormorants are a major source of frustration for Alabama catfish producers, impacting both their fish population and income,” said Tuberville. “Catfish farmers should have the ability to address the damage these predators cause without federal regulations tying their hands and limiting what they can do to protect their business. I am proud to join my colleagues in supporting our catfish farmers against this predatory bird.”

Background:

Cormorant populations have increased dramatically in recent decades to an estimated 1,031,757 birds.  These large water birds that feast primarily on fish cause substantial damage and disruption to aquaculture and fishery operations. Ironically, efficient production practices by fish farmers make the ponds highly susceptible to bird predation, particularly by cormorants.

A two-year study published in 2012 of double-crested cormorant feeding on farm-raised catfish in Mississippi during the winter months found that cormorant depredation represents an annual estimated economic loss of $34.3 million to $73.4 million. A Government Accountability Office report noted: “Fish-eating birds (e.g., cormorants, herons, egrets, and pelicans) can cause severe damage at aquaculture farms, eating catfish, crawfish, salmon, bass, trout, and ornamental fish. According to a USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) survey of catfish producers from 15 states, 69 percent reported some wildlife-caused losses, with a financial loss of $12.5 million to wildlife predation in 1996.” Absent a proper aquaculture depredation order many fish farms will continue to face significant economic losses.

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