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U.S. lawmakers consider resuming lethal control of cormorants

U.S. Congress is considering legislation that would allow government agencies to resume killing double-crested cormorants, which feast on fish in the Great Lakes and elsewhere.

Decade-long Canadian cull had started to stabilize population in southwestern Ontario

A grand close-up shot of a cormorant, at Bowring Park in St. John's. (Submitted by Ron O'Toole)

U.S. Congress is considering legislation that would allow government agencies to resume killing double-crested cormorants, which feast on fish in the Great Lakes and elsewhere.

In 2016, a U.S. federal judge ordered a halt to lethal control measures against the birds, saying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hadn't done enough research to determine whether further efforts were needed.

U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan has introduced a bill that would restore authority to continue the measures in Michigan and 23 other states.

The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources held a hearing on the issue Monday in Alpena, Mich.

Sporting groups say cormorants reduce populations of prized sport fish such as smallmouth bass and yellow perch.

Critics say the birds' effects on fish numbers are exaggerated.

The cormorant is native to the Great Lakes, but it has only been nesting on Middle Island since 1987. (Parks Canada/Provided)

Canadian cull

Parks Canada had been culling the birds for about a decade, as they were taking up residence on Lake Erie's Middle Island, where their nesting and fecal matter threaten vegetation at Canada's most southern point.

Six thousand nests were reported on the island when the cull began in 2008. As many as 25,000 birds would flock to the island each year, breaking branches, eating leaves, defecating everywhere and destroying rare Carolinian forest.

Middle Island's tree canopy decreased 45 per cent during 15-year period studied by Parks Canada.

Thousands of cormorants blanket Middle Island in Lake Erie each year. (Parks Canada/Provided )

With files from CBC

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