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Minnesota Fish Producers Report Losses to Cormorants and Other Birds

February 16, 2004

The University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program recently funded researchers to look into conflicts over resource use by aquaculturalists and fish-eating birds in Minnesota. Linda Wires and Francie Cuthbert with the University of Minnesota surveyed 54 commercial fish producers with outdoor facilities to correlate bird-related fish losses with the distribution and abundance of double-crested cormorants, American white pelicans, and great blue herons.

The major results of Wires’ and Cuthbert’s report are available in a fact sheet, Minnesota Fish Producers Report on Losses to Birds. Highlights include:

  • Fish losses to double-crested cormorants were generally considered more severe than losses to American white pelicans and great blue herons.
  • Fish losses to great blue herons occurred most frequently but were generally not considered severe.
  • 87 percent of fish producers experienced losses to fish-eating birds.
  • 41 percent of fish producers defined their losses as severe.
  • Concentrations of fish-eating birds were greatest at facilities during the birds’ migratory periods.

Mike Lint, co-president of the Minnesota Fish and Bait Farmers and fish farming business owner in West Central Minnesota, estimates that cormorants and pelicans can consume over $100,000 worth of marketable fish from his ponds in a year.

Populations of cormorants and pelicans have rebounded over the past 30 years in response to policy and improved environmental conditions. In Minnesota, there are an estimated 8,000-10,000 breeding pairs of each species. Wires and Cuthbert are poised to conduct a statewide census of Minnesota’s breeding cormorants and pelicans during the 2004 nesting season.

“Cormorants aren’t the only fish-eating birds that visit fish production ponds but they can be a fish producer’s biggest problem bird,” said Wires. “People seem to hold very polarized opinions about how cormorants should be handled. On one level, it’s miraculous that we have cormorants in the state at all given that environmental contaminants and persecution greatly reduced populations by the 1950s. From another perspective, the growing number of cormorants and pelicans aren’t making many friends among fish producers and anglers.”

To order a free copy of the Minnesota Fish Producers Report on Losses to Birds fact sheet, contact Minnesota Sea Grant at seagr@d.umn.edu or call (218) 726-6191.

Minnesota Sea Grant is part of a network of 30 Sea Grant College Programs spanning coastal states throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

This page last modified on January 31, 2007     © 1996 – 2020 Regents of the University of Minnesota     The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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