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New Special Permit for Cormorant Management in Lower 48 States

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced a final rule and final environmental impact statement (EIS) to responsibly manage conflicts associated with double-crested cormorants in the United States.

The final rule establishes a new special permit for state and federally recognized tribal wildlife agencies in the contiguous 48 United States to undertake additional cormorant control activities when permissible under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). States and tribes must use nonlethal methods before resorting to lethal control. The activities allowed under the special permit include controlling cormorants to help reduce conflicts with wild and publicly stocked fisheries within state or tribal-jurisdictions. States also will have additional flexibility to manage cormorants at state or tribal-owned hatcheries and release sites.

Under the rule, a new special permit for interested states and tribes will complement existing measures to address conflicts with cormorants to protect human health and safety, personal property and threatened and endangered species.

“The Trump Administration is providing tools under this coordinated approach for managing conflicts and economic damage associated with double-created cormorants while minimizing the regulatory burden on federal, tribal and state agencies and individual citizens,” said Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “This special permit will help minimize human-wildlife conflicts while maintaining sustainable cormorant populations as required by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.”

Cormorants are fish-eating birds that can have negative impacts on wild fisheries, fish hatcheries and aquaculture facilities, resulting in substantial economic impacts and human health hazards. These impacts can also be felt at our nation’s National Fish Hatchery System, which contributes to many conservation efforts as well as angling opportunities for our nation’s 58 million recreational anglers and associated economies.

The Service collaborated with state fish and wildlife agencies, tribes and other federal partners in further addressing cormorant conflicts including aquaculture and wild-stocked fisheries to assure that we understand the nature and magnitude of the problem. Double-crested cormorants are protected under the MBTA making any lethal control of these birds illegal without explicit authorization from the Service.

“The Association supports this rule which provides the needed flexibility for state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies to effectively manage cormorants,” said Director Sara Parker Pauley of Missouri Department of Conservation, and President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “We look forward to working with our federal partners to balance our conservation responsibilities while working to reduce human-wildlife conflict.”

On January 22, 2020, the Service published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking and announced our intent to prepare a draft EIS as part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process. The public provided input, and the Service considered all comments in developing the draft EIS and proposed rule that published in the Federal Register on June 5, 2020. A summary of comments is included in the final EIS.

This final rule will be effective 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.

All the documents related to the rulemaking process and further information is available at https://www.fws.gov/regulations/cormorant/.