Ill-conceived cormorant kill bill decried as unnecessary

Bill 205 should be killed, not the cormorants

To the Expositor:

Last May MPP Robert Bailey introduced the unnecessary and regressive Private Member’s Bill 205 that, if passed, would allow the uncontrolled killing of cormorants in Ontario. It could set our still highly vulnerable, cormorant population back on the road to near extinction.

Persecution by humans and pesticide poisoning nearly wiped out cormorants on two occasions in the past, but in recent years they have repopulated parts of their former range. Their return to the Great Lakes is a good news environmental story. But the recovery of cormorants could be short-lived if Bill 205 is passed.

Regretfully, the irrational dislike of cormorants runs deep, so they have been scapegoated for almost every kind of problem from destroying the environment to eating all the fish. In fact, if cormorant detractors were to be believed, you’d think the birds were some kind of apocalyptic black plague decimating everything in their path. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is that cormorants are a native bird and an integral and beneficial component of Ontario’s natural ecosystems. Their numbers in the province, while still modest, have already leveled off and are dropping in some areas. Cormorant colonies are not common and where they do exist, they are vulnerable to harassment. 

As the primary predators of invasive fish species, like round gobies, cormorants are ecologically beneficial and in areas where cormorant colonies exist, sport fish populations can be robust. There is no substantive scientific evidence that cormorants have any significant impact on the fish caught by commercial fishermen or recreational anglers.

Some people are concerned about cormorant guano killing trees, usually because they don’t like how it looks, but the total number of trees killed by all the cormorants in Ontario is minuscule. And changes in vegetation, including tree deaths, are a normal, natural process in colonial waterbird colonies around the world, as well as in a multitude of other natural situations.

Trying to stop normal, natural change through killing is disruptive and misguided, especially since the killing has to occur every year, because new cormorants will just replace the ones that have been killed before them. So, if keeping a few trees intact is the goal, unless cormorants as a species are almost entirely wiped out in Ontario, the killing can never stop.

Remarkably, while the ill-conceived and unnecessary Bill 205 sits active in the Ontario government process, a US federal court just ended systematic cormorant killing in 24 eastern US states saying there was little scientific basis for it. 

It’s Bill 205 that should be killed, not the cormorants.


Rob Laidlaw

executive director

Zoocheck Inc.