Lawsuit Filed to Stop Cormorant Slaughter By Federal Agencies

Posted on April 20, 2015

Thousands of Native Birds Blamed for Salmon Declines Caused By Corps’ Mismanagement of the Hydropower System

For immediate release:

Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland
Collette Adkins, Center for Biological Diversity
Michael Harris, Friends of Animals
Sharnelle Fee, Wildlife Center of the North Coast

cormarands-cc-Brocken-Inaglory-article-image-220pxPORTLAND, Ore. — Five conservation and animal welfare organizations initiated a lawsuit today against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Wildlife Services to stop the slaughter of thousands of double-crested cormorants in the Columbia River basin. According to the lawsuit, the agencies are scapegoating the native birds for salmon declines while ignoring the real threat to salmon: mismanagement of the federal hydropower system. Unless stopped, the agencies will kill more than 15 percent of the entire population of double-crested cormorants west of the Rocky Mountains.

The federal agencies are set to kill more than 10,000 double-crested cormorants using shotguns as the birds forage for food over water. Snipers with night vision goggles and high-powered rifles will also shoot birds from elevated platforms as the birds care for their eggs and young on their nesting grounds at East Sand Island in the Columbia River. The agencies also plan to destroy more than 26,000 double-crested cormorant nests through oiling of eggs, egg failure, and starvation of nestlings whose parents have been shot.

“This is not about birds versus fish,” said Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland conservation director. “The Corps and other federal agencies have proposed rolling back dam operations that benefit salmon while at the same time targeting thousands of cormorants. Blaming salmon and steelhead declines on wild birds that have coexisted with salmon since time immemorial is nothing more than a diversion.”

The lawsuit identifies several ways in which the Corps and Fish and Wildlife Service violated federal laws in their decision to move forward with the cormorant slaughter, including by refusing to analyze alternative dam operations to benefit salmon as required by the National Environmental Policy Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In addition, the agencies failed to utilize available non-lethal methods of cormorant control, such as habitat modification on East Sand Island.

“The Corps has lost four lawsuits in federal court over the past decade due to its failure to address the impacts of dams on salmon,” said Stephen Wells, ALDF executive director. “Rather than addressing this ongoing violation of federal law, the Corps is now trying to blame wild birds who co-existed with healthy salmon runs for millennia before the Corps of Engineers came on the scene.”

It is particularly troubling that the Corps and the Service both admit that this slaughter will drive cormorant populations below sustainable levels. The agencies define a “sustainable” cormorant population as one that is “able to maintain a long-term trend with numbers above a level that would not result in a major decline or cause a species to be threatened or endangered.”

“It is unprecedented that federal agencies would deliberately drive a native species below levels defined as sustainable,” said Michael Harris, Friends of Animals’ legal director. “We expect the federal government to protect native wildlife, not intentionally cause major declines.”

“The agencies need to stop scapegoating these native birds,” said Collette Adkins, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Corps’ refusal to modify dam operations is the real threat to salmon, and the deaths of thousands of cormorants will be another casualty of the agency’s mismanagement of the Columbia River ecosystem.”

“The saddest part about this action is that it will do little or nothing to protect salmon,” said Sharnelle Fee, director of the Wildlife Center of the North Coast. “The science supporting this lethal control action is remarkably weak and this action is virtually meaningless from a salmon recovery perspective.”

Cormorants eat a very small portion of migrating salmon and also eat their predators, so the killing will have little benefit for salmon. But the killing will have a significant impact on the cormorant population. According to scientific experts, cormorant populations are under tremendous pressure throughout the Western United States from natural hazards such as drought and climate change. They are also under pressure from deliberate hazing, harassment and lethal control by humans. Western cormorant populations are currently less than 10 percent of their historic levels.

The plaintiffs on this lawsuit are: Audubon Society of Portland, Center for Biological Diversity, Wildlife Center of the North Coast, Animal Legal Defense Fund, and Friends of Animals. Plaintiffs are represented by Dan Rohlf and Earthrise Law Center. The plaintiffs will seek an injunction to stop the killing while the case proceeds through the court system.

More Information


26 thoughts on “Lawsuit Filed to Stop Cormorant Slaughter By Federal Agencies

  1. Carissa herold says:

    Killing cormorants will not help the salmon population. Stop the slaughter.

  2. lisa neenan says:

    I am against the killing of the cormorants! Fish are a species meant to be preyed upon by other animals since the beginning of time! Why is this a problem? Because it is a natural part of nature and they don’t pay to hunt!?! Disgusting what this world has come down to. Leave the birds alone!

  3. Chris Murphy says:

    Bounties are immoral to species preservation.


    Find another solution that does not do this.

  5. Lisa McCorison says:

    Leave the cormorants alone! They’re not to blame!!

  6. Joyce Armstrong says:

    Why is the answer is always kill kill kill?

  7. Margarita Callejo says:

    The solution to every conflict with wildLife shouldn’t be killing them!

  8. Adrienne Arnold says:

    Leave the cormorants alone! Stop messing with nature and the ecosystem!

  9. Sheila Keller says:

    Please do not kill these beautiful, innocent birds. They are important to us for so many reasons, but most of all, they have more right to the landscape than anyone. They were here first and we should all respect that. They are PART of our environment. If they are killed, who/what is next? Will the killing stop with them? As long as there is an excuse (money)then what is to stop killing others in the ecosystem? Leave the birds and their nests alone.

  10. monica vazquez says:

    Please stop the cruelty against this gorgeus bird!!

  11. Traci C. Hosler says:

    Come on people. .. find your Souls.

  12. Cindy Christians says:

    How dare you commit such a vile act against innocent living, feeling beings?? This is very Wrong and needs to be Stopped!!

  13. brenda says:

    Go for it!! Nobody has the right to kill or displace any of earths creatures!

  14. Katie Parks says:

    Please stop the violence!!

  15. stephan mccartney says:

    Leave whats left of our wildlife alone for our children an their chikdren.

  16. How can humans be so evil and heartless ??? Leave these birds alone !!! You have no right to kill them and God sees what you do !!!

  17. Meg says:

    What is there to say.

  18. laura aiken says:

    please stop the cruelty

  19. Frances says:

    You have a powerful responsibility to protect sustainable waters and all wildlife. Solutions are needed. Be strong and get back to the drawing board. Extinguishing species can never be undone, and us humans are capable of better!

  20. Cindy Letourneau says:

    Please stop the slaughter!!!

  21. Kim Sterrett RN says:

    Please leave these creatures alone

  22. tania hood says:

    They have as much right to be on the this earth than we we do. Stop the slaughter

  23. Diane Levy says:

    The best thing that the human does now it’s to remove everything in their ways for profits !
    Slaughtering, hunting and killing everything.
    We are just pathetic …

  24. Susan Fraga says:

    Stop the slaughter now!

  25. lina Nicolia says:

    STOP killing them ! let them be and let them LIVE ! you have no right to kill them….none.

  26. Karen Blanchard says:

    STOP killing the cruelty of killing!

Be a Partner in Protection!

Donate monthly to help animals.

or make a one-time gift »

ALDF's Online Store

Help fund our lifesaving work!


Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.

Join Us

Follow ALDF on these networks:

Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.