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Judge rules federal agency overstepped its bounds on cormorant control

Double-crested cormorant
Double-crested cormorant

A federal judge in Washington, D.C. has halted programs to reduce the number of cormorants in the Great Lakes region. The federal government and tribes in Michigan kill the birds to protect yellow perch, walleye and other fish. But the judge said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service overstepped its bounds when it authorized killing cormorants in more than 20 states.

Peter Payette visited the Les Cheneaux Islands in Michigan this week to talk to people who live there.

“People here are pretty worried. About 20 years ago, the number of cormorants on the islands exploded, and at that same time, perch fishing kind of crashed, and people blamed the birds. And so, a little less than 15 years ago, they started these control programs and cormorants were shot. But in many more cases, they’d go out and oil eggs, so the young didn’t survive,” Payette says.

Listen above to hear Payette talk about the court ruling, what he heard from a resort owner who’s worried about losing cormorant controls, and one of the plaintiffs in the case - a researcher who’s been studying cormorants for about 50 years, who says cormorants are not doing well in the Great Lakes region.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
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