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The cormorant/fisherman conflict in Tillamook County, Oregon Public Deposited

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  • The cormorant/fisherman issue is not limited to Tillamook County in 1988-1989 but is symptomatic of a widespread conflict of some fishermen with fish-eating animals. Predators, specifically cormorants, have been blamed for the "ruin" of the Tillamook fisheries, but the effects of cormorant predation have been exaggerated. Actually, current salmon and steelhead catches are similar to or greater than many catches prior to 1972, when several "predators" (including Double-crested Cormorants) were not protected by law. Although it is clear that cormorants can eat some smolts in Tillamook Bay, it is unreasonable to assume that they eat as many as has been suggested. For example, when figures that appeared in a Tillamook newspaper are added up, cormorants in Tillamook Bay in 1988 were suggested to eat nearly three times as many smolts as were released there! Because a few Tillamook County fishing guides and fishermen felt that cormorants were destroying their salmon and steelhead fisheries, they pressured the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) into giving them permits to harass (but not kill) cormorants in the spring of 1988 on public waters of Nehalem and Tillamook Bays. The permittees were not supervised to be sure that they did not disturb or harm nontarget wildlife (i.e., wildlife other than the targeted cormorants) or did not kill cormorants. After the ODFW announced in late November 1988 that they would not be issuing cormorant harassment permits in 1989, a few Tillamook fishing guides and fishermen worked to pass House Bill 3185 during the 1989 Oregon Legislative session. House Bill 3185 would have allowed cormorant harassment along the entire Oregon Coast any time during the year, but the Bill failed. Then, in July 1989, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission refused to consider granting harassment permits to fishing guides and fishermen. Thus, cormorant harassment in 1989 was not legalized, although some harassment apparently occurred illegally. Cormorant harassment in Tillamook County does not currently meet the requirements to justify an animal damage control program. For example, one criterion of such a program is that there be minimal compensatory predation (i.e., prey saved from the controlled predator is taken by noncontrolled predators). But if cormorants are harassed, there are many other predators that could eat the "saved" smolts, including adult coho and chinook salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout, and striped bass that may eat millions of salmon and steelhead smolts along the Oregon Coast each year. Current information indicates that documented smolt losses from cormorant predation may not compensate the economic, biological, aesthetic, and social costs of harassment. Biological costs include disturbance to nontarget wildlife such as waterfowl or threatened and endangered birds like the Bald Eagle and Brown Pelican; disturbance would unavoidably accompany cormorant harassment. One social cost of interest is that predator control of cormorants to "save" salmon is arbitrary and capricious, since salmon are themselves a significant predator of young Dungeness crabs and fish important to other Oregon commercial and sports fishermen. Alternatives to cormorant harassment exist and would address all smolt predation, not just that by cormorants. These alternatives include changing hatchery practices, so that smolts survive better after release. These alternatives should be at least considered. Biologists may have somewhat defused the cormorant harassment issue if they were more able to communicate with nonbiologically-trained fishermen, but even so, there are a few fishing guides and fishermen who refuse to believe any information that does not agree with their own opinions.
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  • Bayer, Range D. 1989. The cormorant/fisherman conflict in Tillamook County, Oregon. Studies in Oregon Ornithology No. 6.
Table of Contents
  • Title Page -- Copyright Page -- Abstract -- Preface -- Acknowledgments -- Table of Contents -- List of Tables -- List of Figures -- Conventions Used in this Monograph -- Chapter -- Appendix -- Literature Cited -- Index
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