Controversy over cormorant cull about to re-ignite
Posted By Kim Grove
Brighton – The possible return of a cormorant cull at Presqu'ile Provincial Park after a two-year absence has once again aroused strong emotions on both sides of the issue.
The Ministry of Natural Resources has given the public until Dec. 29 to respond to a proposed project that includes managing cormorant populations on Gull and High Bluff Islands in Presqu’ile.
The ministry had a cormorant management plan in place until last year. Between 2003 and 2007, it reduced the bird’s numbers by oiling 91,760 eggs, and removing 13,020 nests. From 2004 to 2006, more than 10,800 cormorants were culled.
The ministry’s goal was to protect woodland habitat that is important to several species that are under threat throughout the Great Lakes, such as the monarch butterfly, the black-crowned night heron and the great egret.
Corina Brdar, a zone ecologist for the MNR, says Ontario Parks "scientifically assessed" the results of cormorant management in Presqu’ile and found that it “was effective in decreasing the damage to woodland habitat,” and allowing the trees and shrubs to begin to recover.
However, in 2008, without any management plan in place, cormorant numbers increased and the birds “colonized new, live trees for nesting, many of which are in areas used as habitat by other species.”
The MNR says “an ecosystem-based implementation plan is needed for the Presqu’ile Islands because the ecological integrity of the woodlands has been affected by both deer and cormorants,” Brdar said in a release. The proposal for cormorant management activities requires an environmental study report and public comment when the draft plan is released. A separate implementation plan for wildlife and vegetation management on the mainland will also be prepared and opportunity given for public to comment on it as well.
The ministry’s intention to reintroduce a management plan doesn’t sit well with some in the community but finds favour with others.
Doug McRae, a local naturalist, takes the view that the cormorants arrived in the area naturally and should be left alone.
“I’m of the belief that where there is a good argument for it, I can see managing cormorants, but I don’t believe there is a good argument for managing them at Presqu’ile,” McRae said.
Populations of different bird species that have made their habitat in large numbers in Presqu’ile, such as the common tern, have naturally decreased, he said.
“It’s not a static thing. In the 1950s Presqu’ile had the largest common tern colony in North America but they faded by the 1970s and recently were replaced by ring-billed gulls, and at one point we had the largest population of ring-billed gulls nesting in the great lakes. These things are reflecting the environmental conditions that we live in.” Many of the cormorants are dying of botulism, McRae said.
“My bet is that if we were to leave it alone cormorants would be uncommon in the future.”
Fred Helleiner, a bird watcher respected for his knowledge of bird habitat in Presqu’ile, agrees with McRae that there is an aesthetic prejudice against the cormorant. The bird, referred to by early European settlers as the “crow duck,” is not considered attractive.
“If they were white like swans, which are actually a lot more damaging to the environment, they would love them, ” Helleiner said, referring to those who dislike the bird.
He said nature should be allowed to take care of itself.
“We don’t know enough to monkey around with individual elements in the system, without knowing how the whole system is going to respond,” Helleiner said, warning that the ecosystem is so complex that it could be disrupted by a cull.
Scott Anderson, a resident of Presqu’ile Bay, supports reducing cormorant numbers, even though they’re “magnificent birds to watch” in pursuit their prey. There are just too many of them.
“They literally destroy all the vegetation. They leave a layer of guano, that’s crap to ordinary people. And in fresh water, it’s deadly. It’s just like if you had a sewage treatment plant and you never bothered processing stuff and shoving it right into the lake. Saltwater and oceans absorb a lot of this but fresh water can’t.”
He has no objection to 100 or 200 pairs in Presqu’ile, but when their numbers reach the thousands they should be managed, he said.
“Don’t get me wrong. I love nature. I help nature every chance I get. I’ve planted thousands of trees in my time,” Anderson said. “The thing about these naturalists, they are very one-track-minded. They say you should leave everything and let it run its natural course. Well, if everything ran its natural course, guess what, we’d all be dead before we were 50. We cheat nature like you wouldn’t believe.”
McRae said cormorants shouldn’t be singled out as for their impact on the environment. “Cormorants kill trees where they nest; they always have and they always will. They are colonial birds which means they nest in large groups. All colonial birds kill vegetation with their droppings,” McRae said.
The cormorants have made their home on Gull and High Bluff islands, a bird sanctuary, and they should be left alone, he said.
McRae doesn’t buy the argument that the cormorant is affecting the number of rare birds seen at Presqu’ile. “The rare birds that are nesting in those trees started nesting in Presqu’ile after the cormorant had killed the trees,” he said, referring specifically to the great egret and the great blue heron. “I believe the cormorants promote biodiversity rather than limit it.”
The method of culling also distresses McRae, which he finds cruel; in 2004, the peak of the cull, 6,030 were shot.
They were killed “with .22 caliber rifles fitted with four power scopes, using a .22 calibre hollow-point subsonic bullet,” the MNR stated in a report on its strategy assessment for 2003-2006.
The disturbance to the bird habitat and the estimate that one-in-three cormorants fly off the island wounded concerns McRae.
They sometimes flap around with a broken wing for days, he said. “Can you imagine if the deer cull was conducted in such a way that a deer was seen running through the park for days with a broken leg or a leg shot off?”
The naturalists have also expressed concern to the ministry about the dead cormorant carcasses left on the island after they were culled.
“The Ministry of Environment forced the park to go out at the end of the summer and clean up these huge piles of dead cormorants that they’d piled up on High Bluff Island,” Helleiner said. The composted material was transported from High Bluff island in autumn 2005 and deposited in the landfill site in Brighton,” the MNR reported.
One group that is in favour of the cull is the anglers and hunters.
They’ve told the Ministry of Environment that cormorants consume large, major sport fish such as lake trout and salmon as well as feed on the same prey fish that large predatory fish need for food. They also blame cormorants for depleting local supplies of pan fish, such as perch and bass.
The ministry counters that studies of cormorant diets in Lake Ontario show that less than two per cent of the prey found in cormorants is lake trout or salmon. Moreover, cormorants consume less than one per cent of the prey fish, “which is insignificant when compared to about 13 per cent taken by sport fish,” the MOE says on its website.
Not enough fish, too many birds – nature doesn’t balance things the way people would like it, Anderson said. “Everything in Mother Nature comes in twos, either too much or too little.”
Man should manage nature, he said. “It just blows my mind that people would allow wildlife to suddenly run amok. It’s like raccoons; there are more raccoons in North America than there were at the turn of the century because nobody’s hunting them,” Anderson said. “Human beings are managed very well, so why shouldn’t we do the same for wildlife.”
Brdnar, in reply to questions from The Community Press, explained in an e-mail that it is still “early in the planning stages for this project.However, we do know that the cost will be less than in previous years because our goal would be protection of specific treed habitat areas, rather than all treed areas of the islands as was done in the past. For this reason, any necessary culling would likely be on a smaller scale than in the past, and the need to cull would be determined each year based on monitoring results from previous years.”
The original management plan was for four years and was extended for another year. The one currently being developed can continue year after year for 10 years “once full public consultation has been completed.”
Initial comments regarding the project can be sent to Corina Brdar, Zone Ecologist, Ontario Parks, Southeast Zone, 51 Heakes Lane, Kingston, Ontario K7M 9B1 or by e-mail to DCCO.firstname.lastname@example.org
Business North - The Daily Briefing - Business Newspaper Online
Half a billion dollar project could be largest on Great Lakes in a generation
Toledo, OH – Congress is considering the possible funding of the construction of a new lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, a half-billion dollar undertaking that would rank as the largest navigation infrastructure project on the Great Lakes in a generation. Construction of a new lock at “the Soo” would bring up to 250 jobs annually to northern Michigan and continue for a decade. Estimated cost of the lock is about $475 million. One economist has likened the economic impact of lock construction to opening an automobile plant in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Funding could come either through a massive stimulus bill or appropriations bills that will be considered by Congress as early as January. The new lock has been in the planning stage for two decades, but now is ready to move forward once funding is secured.
“The need for a second Poe-sized lock is critical,” said Patrick J. O’Hern, President of Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF), and Vice President and General Manager of Bay Shipbuilding Company. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers considers the Soo Locks the single point of failure that could bring Great Lakes shipping to a standstill. The new lock was first authorized more than 20 years ago. America has waited too long for this project to move forward. The time is now.”
The Soo Locks connect Lake Superior to the lower four Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. The locks handle more than 80 million tons of iron ore, coal, grain, and other cargos each year.
The benefits of Great Lakes shipping are extraordinary for raw materials-dependent industries across the region and nation. By one estimate, shipping via the Lakes annually saves customers $3.6 billion compared to the next least-expensive transportation mode.
“The reason the need is so critical is vessels that are restricted to the Poe Lock represent nearly 70 percent of U.S.-Flag carrying capacity on the Great Lakes,” said Donald Cree, 1st Vice President of GLMTF and National Vice President, Great Lakes, for American Maritime Officers. “If the Poe Lock is incapacitated for a lengthy period of time, America’s steel mills won’t have access to Minnesota and Michigan iron ore. Great Lakes power plants won’t be able to receive clean-burning, low-sulfur coal. The entire American economy is at risk.”
The new lock has been authorized at full Federal expense. Groundbreaking could begin immediately. At the peak of construction, 250 workers will be on the job. Nearly one out of every four dollars spent on the project will wind up as regional incomes in an area where $20,000 a year is considered a good-paying job.
“This lock is about much more than keeping cargo moving on the Great Lakes,” said James H.I. Weakley, 2nd Vice President of GLMTF and President of Lake Carriers’ Association. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined that Great Lakes shipping saves its customers $3.6 billion a year when compared to the next least-costly land-based mode of transportation. Those savings keep Americans employed and American industries competitive. The new lock will be a boon to consumers and employers alike.”
“The Lakes had a preview of the disaster that awaits us if the Poe Lock fails just a couple months ago,” said John D. Baker, 3rd Vice President of GLMTF and President of the ILA’s Great Lakes District Council. “A mechanical failure closed the Poe Lock for a brief period and three vessels had to go to anchor. An entire industry was crossing its fingers. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was able to resume lock operations quickly, but we can’t bank on that always being the case. Congress must include a second Poe-sized lock in any economic stimulus package or an appropriations bill.
GLMTF was founded in Toledo, Ohio, in 1992 to promote domestic and international shipping on the Great Lakes. With more than 80 member companies and organizations, it is the largest coalition to ever speak for the Great Lakes shipping community and draws its membership from both labor and management representing U.S.-Flag vessel operators, shipboard and longshore unions, port authorities, cargo shippers, terminal operators, shipyards, and other Great Lakes interests. Its goals include restoring adequate funding for dredging of Great Lakes deep-draft ports and waterways, construction of a second Poe-sized lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; protecting the nation’s cabotage laws; maximizing the Lakes overseas trade; and opposing exports and increased diversions of Great Lakes water.
Freighters wait out storm, big waves on Saginaw Bay
Monday, December 08, 2008 Bay City Times
Residents from Au Gres to Caseville may have done a double take when they looked out on Saginaw Bay on Friday, according to
U.S. Coast Guard officials.
About 10 freighters were anchored in the bay, seeking shelter, due to high waves in Lake Huron, according to Coast Guard officials.
Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ''were calling for 18-foot waves out on Lake Huron,'' said Petty Officer Travis W. Ruterbusch of the U.S. Coast Guard's
Saginaw River Station in Hampton Township.
''There were some really nasty swells out in Lake Huron on the weekend,'' Ruterbusch said.
The idle freighters prompted some to call the Coast Guard.
''A gentleman living along Oak Point, in Huron County, called us Friday afternoon and wondered what was going on,'' Ruterbusch said. ''Several of the freighters stayed in the Bay overnight on Friday and left in the morning on Saturday.''
Southwest winds on
Friday night at East Tawas were from 22 to 34 mph, according to Mike Boguth of the National Weather Service office at Gaylord.
Ruterbusch said he didn't know if all of the freighters had left Saginaw Bay as of
Walleye Pulse Q & A.
OK, marking fish won't bite on what you have.....HMMMM target fish walleye, perch, crappies or anything you like.Bobbers won't hit, Jigging won't work, what do you do? Lets hear what you guys like to do.I switch structure and use my old spots but I am losing touch with old stubborness that they just wont bite attitude.Just keep moving?
Chris Smith Chris.
Having fish turn their noses up at your offerings is not uncommon, but seems to happen more for some reason when ice fishing. Or maybe it's because we get a longer, prolonged looks at the fish that do come in and have a stare down with your spoon or live bait. There must be far more environmental factors at work then we can figure out, when the water gets cold enough to become a solid. Things like light penetration, wave action, oxygen levels and everything else that a warm water environment supports and offers, are all different when the top freezes. So one has to assume a fishes mood will be different in those conditions. His feeding urges are not as intense and most seems to scrutinize any offering more carefully, especially when not with a school of other competitors. Walleyes are natorious for this (loner) roaming/feeding cycle, especially in the winter months. But I've also seen massive schools come in when ice fishing Lake Erie and not a touch by any of them. As far as tricks, I've learned to jig agressively until the fish comes into the hole. Then hold the lure motionless. If he turns away, I'll twitch it or let it fall to the bottom. Sometimes slowly lifting it works. But almost never give it another hard jig once you have his attention. I've also caught several bigger walleyes that were crusing along suspended shallow and I seen them on the flasher going through the hole. Those fish are ready to strike and eat right now. On all occassions I simply reeled up to the depth I marked them at and held the rod still and Wham!!!!
Heres is 3 pictures of fish that I distinctly remember that happening with, but know there has been more over the years after I started using a flasher. I also caught a nice steelhead that came crusing through at 6 feet over 26 feet of water. Capt. Dan.
I wanted to know if anyone has fished cold water winter fishing below spillways. I would be very thankful of any and all info and advice given.. thanks Mitch Fricke
Keep your lines wet, Mitch Fricke Mitch. Spillways are my favorite spots to fish, especially during certain times and certain conditions. When the water is fast during brief melts or during the coldest shallow/slow water times during the winter, concentrate on the first deep hole down river from the spillway or any others in that first 2 miles or so. But preferably start at that first sharp or tapering corner. Quarter cast the whole length of this hole or slot with a jig and minnow offering. Be meticulous and cover the whole hole from it's top to it's bottom. Walleye can and will pocket up in tight current breaks areas during this time. Hop the jig and minnow offering slowly and let it set for just a hair longer then you usually would. If you hit a fish concentrate on that spot for a while. Even let the jig and minnow lay there on the bottom. That gets those savvy fish to commit. Good Luck Capt. Dan..
Those whitefish things are good to eat, huh? Eric. Yupper Eric they sure are, one of the best tasting fish you'll ever eat. I can see where one part of the country might think otherwise, being they resemble a giant shad or alewive. I remember the first one my buddy ever caught while ice fishing a few years ago, and threw it back because he thought it was a giant shad. But whitefish are actually in the Trout family and have delicate and delicous flesh. Heres some info.
Lake Whitefish Coregonus clupeaformis
Identifying characteristics: (Native Fish) Two dorsal fins including one adipose fin, blunt nose, fins clear or nearly so, greenish brown back, silver sides. Lake whitefish, a pale, shy member of the trout/salmon family Salmonidae, has long been a mainstay of the commercial catch in the Great Lakes because of its exceptional flavor, convenient size, and habit of schooling. Until recently, few sport anglers had discovered the special techniques required to catch lake whitefish, but this situation is changing, and any angler who has learned to fish whitefish successfully will find it well worth the effort. The reclusive lake whitefish prefers to swim in the company of a school of fellow whitefish in the gloomy, cool water of the Great Lakes at depths of up to 200 feet and deeper as summer’s heat climbs, the main reason it requires extra skill to catch one.
The whitefish spawns in early winter in shallow rock or sand bottomed lake waters less than 25 feet deep. The young hatch the following spring, and grow large enough to leave the protective shallows for deeper waters by early summer. Whitefish generally grow rapidly, but this varies by region and food supply. Lake whitefish can reach a size of more than 20 pounds and an age of over 25 years, although this was more commonplace 50 years ago. Although depletion of whitefish stocks by over-fishing and environmental deterioration had drastically reduced commercial yields, environmental cleanup and careful fishery management of the late 1960s has largely remedied this. Unlike its large-mouthed trout and salmon cousins, the lake whitefish has a small, exceedingly delicate mouth (another challenge for the angler) and it is therefore confined to dining on insects, freshwater shrimp, small fish and fish eggs, and bottom organisms. Most feeding takes place on or near lake-bottoms. Whitefish eggs are consumed by yellow perch, ciscoes, burbot, and even other whitefish. Young whitefish fall prey to lake trout, northern pike, burbot, walleye, and probably other fish-eating predators. Adults are taken primarily by man.