Surprise, Surprise: Killing Thousands of Birds to Kill Fish Won’t Work

Last summer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ruffled a lot of feathers when it announced an offensive plan to kill thousands of cormorants in an effort to save salmon in the Pacific Northwest. Now wildlife advocates are calling for an immediate stop to the killing and an investigation following the release of documents showing the effort would a complete waste.

The Army Corps targeted cormorants on East Sand Island, which is located near the mouth of the Columbia River, but bird and wildlife advocates raised serious concerns that the proposal was cruel, wasteful and pointless, and used these birds as scapegoats for problems affecting salmon that are caused by humans – namely dams and habitat loss.

According to the Audubon Society of Portland, the island is home to the largest double-crested cormorant colony in the west, the largest Brown Pelican roost in the Pacific Northwest and the largest Caspian Tern colony in the world. It has also been designated as an internationally recognized Important Bird Area by both the Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy.

Those opposing the plan also worried it could potentially have serious unintended consequences for cormorants who may be doing well on the island, but aren’t thriving elsewhere, which could potentially push them towards needing endangered species protection.

Despite widespread opposition from the public – more than 102,000 people signed a Care2 petition opposing this plan– and the scientific community, in March the Army Corps announced a final plan that slightly reduced the number of cormorants targeted, but would still kill nearly 11,000 of them and destroy more than 26,000 of their nests in an effort to reduce their numbers by more than half.

As it turns out, wildlife advocates were entirely right about the senselessness of killing thousands of birds to save salmon. As a result of a lawsuit filed by conservation organizations earlier this spring, documents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) own scientists were just released showing the slaughter won’t do anything to recover salmon.

How many salmon the plan would actually save is kind of an important detail here. Yet scientists from the FWS said in a report that it wouldn’t save any – the salmon the cormorants were eating would have died from other causes anyway. The Army Corps, meanwhile, failed to acknowledge this information or include it in its Environmental Impact Statement.

“The Service’s analysis confirms what we’ve argued for years,” said Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland conservation director. “The federal agencies responsible for recovering endangered fish should take steps to save salmon and steelhead by improving federal dam operations rather than making native birds the scapegoats for human-caused declines in Columbia Basin salmon runs. This is a senseless slaughter and the government knew it and chose to conceal this information during the public process.”

Now a coalition of groups is calling on FWS Director Dan Ashe to open an investigation into why this information was never released during the public process, in addition to asking the agency to withdraw permits allowing these birds to be killed because there’s no actual scientific justification for taking their lives.

“Dead set on killing cormorants, the Service ignored its own science,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The agency’s own analysis makes clear that its cormorant-killing program is doing nothing to help endangered fish. My heart aches for all the birds that have needlessly suffered and died. The killing needs to stop now.”

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Mark Donner
Mark Donner3 years ago

I'd really like to know what "engineering school" these mentally challenged and pathological "army corps of engineers" are supposed to have studied at.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago

Was they just designated for target practice then?
America has tooooooo many people wanted to shoot animals and birds.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

Another idiotic scheme by the Wildlife dis-Service coming up with the idea to blame the salmon shortage on another wildlife species. Remember, it started with the sea lions and they started killing them. Now it is the birds turn. Heaven forbid it could be a problem caused by humans...we would never do that.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran3 years ago

don't the military have better things to do than interfere with mother nature?

Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

No more excuses to any killings

K B.
K B3 years ago

The stupidity of the human animal proves itself once again.

Julia Cabrera-Woscek


federico bortoletto


Georgina Elizab McAlliste
.3 years ago

Heather I don't think it's a case of being educated,....But how one uses the education they recieved, and of course Ignorance in the sense of the word ignoring where they live and the animals habitat, and politics have a lot to do with it too....Money! Money