Washington, D.C. - Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) introduced the Cormorant Relief Act, legislation that would restore the ability of Arkansas catfish farmers and other aquaculture producers to kill double-crested cormorants that threaten their livelihoods. Congressmen Jack Bergman (MI-01) and Collin Peterson (MN-07) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives earlier this year.
"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.
"As we continue our fight to ensure healthy fisheries throughout Michigan and across the country, I appreciate Senator Cotton introducing the Cormorant Relief Act in the U.S. Senate. Inaction threatens our fish populations, and in turn, the livelihood of recreational and commercial fishing industries, which are critical to our economy. While FWS continues it's work on a way forward to protect our fisheries from the devastating effects of cormorant overpopulation, this bill would provide much needed relief to states in the meantime," said Bergman.
"For years I have heard from fisheries, area resorts, charter boat captains and tribal leaders in my district about the problems they have personally faced because of the mismanagement of cormorant populations," said Peterson. "This bill seeks to eliminate red tape and gives our fish farmers the right to defend their ponds, and our natural resources, because unchecked these birds will continue to decimate fisheries."
Double-crested cormorants can seriously jeopardize a fish farmer's ability to stay in business. For example, studies from the National Aquaculture Association estimated cormorant-related production losses on catfish farms in the Mississippi Delta at 18 to 20 million fingerlings per winter, or 37% of catfish production losses. Cormorants cause additional economic damage by spreading fish parasites and wounding birds.
In May 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated two depredation orders-the Aquaculture Depredation Order and the Public Resource Depredation Order-for double-crested cormorants until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepares an adequate Environmental Impact Statement. Until an impact statement is completed, fish farmers are capped with low permit numbers that prevent them from protecting their commodities.