Lack of concrete measures to manage cormorants: a disappointing Danish cormorant management plan

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07 Mar

On 1 March 2022, the Danish Minister for the Environment Lea Wermelin signed a new cormorant management plan. The new plan is primarily an update of the former plan, and it does not contain new measures to reduce the cormorants’ predation. This is far from enough for the Danish Sport Fishermen Association.

The 72-page plan’s main goal is to set a framework for a balanced management of cormorants, i.e. preserving the population while reducing the conflicts with fishing and the predation’s impacts on vulnerable fish stocks. It notably includes funding for further research on the cormorants’ impacts on marine and freshwater fish stocks. A Cormorant Working Group is set up and will hold two meetings a year to discuss various topics, including which cormorants’ colonies need to be regulated, the need for adjustments in the current regulatory options and other remedial measures.

The Danish Sport Fishermen Association has expressed its disappointment at this rushed plan, which lacks ambitious goals and concrete measures to secure fish stocks. It notes that the cormorants’ stock in Denmark – and in Europe – is at a historically high level with a favourable conservation status, which should have allowed for more concrete and ambitious measures. At the same time, many fish stocks, such as grayling, are at critically low levels because of the cormorants’ predation.

During the plan’s drafting phase, the Association and the Danish Salmon Fund prepared a proposal for an alternative plan, which shares the same overall goal as the government’s final plan, but sets clear sub-goals for what is needed to ensure that both cormorants and fish have robust stocks. For example, it establishes a set of indicators which could trigger the derogations foreseen under Article 9 of the Birds Directive as regards “serious damage to fisheries and water” (e.g. a set percentage of stock reductions for some freshwater and marine species).

The Association also believes that the Danish State has a responsibility to act when the fish populations are endangered or well below favourable conservation status. Finally, this alternative plan would make it easier for volunteers to contribute to the cormorants’ management, supported by the experts’ advice.

Torben Kaas, Chairman of the Association, said: “The fight does not end here. We will push for the plan to be revisited as soon as possible.” He also pointed out that while the current plan will not be able to solve the extensive problems caused by cormorants, its implementation will be crucial so that it can to some extent solve some of the problems.

Sign the Danish Sport Fishermen Association petition here.

Read the EAA position paper on cormorants here.

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