Cotton Introduces Amendment to Infrastructure Bill to Allow Fish Farmers to Protect Ponds from Predatory Birds
Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) introduced the Cormorant Relief Act as an amendment to the infrastructure package being considered on the Senate floor. This amendment would fully restore the ability of catfish farmers and other aquaculture producers to cull predatory double-crested cormorant populations. It would also 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. Text of the amendment may be found here.
"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. This amendment 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.
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.