cormorant eco comment
2 Pages
English
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cormorant eco comment

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2 Pages
English

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Environmental Commissioner of Ontario PEACEFUL 2004/2005 ANNUAL REPORT SUPPLEMENT PARKS www.eco.on.caCOALITIONReview of Application R2004001:Review of the Amendment to the Management Strategy for Double-crested Cormorants at Presqu’ile Provincial Park(Review Denied by MNR)ECO CommentWhether or not to manage cormorants and how to do it have been controversial issues for MNR. In 2002, there was substantial public support for both aggressive and immedi-ate control of cormorant populations, and substantial opposition to the use of popula-tion control measures. In 2002, MNR decided on a middle of-the-road approach – addi-tional research would be done to help fill information gaps and relatively benign control measures would be used in 2003 even though MNR knew that benefits would not be apparent for at least two years. However by March 2004, MNR decided that more aggressive actions were required to re-duce the risk that the western woodland would be irreparably harmed and proposed the 2004 Amendment. Again there was both substantial support and substantial opposition. At the heart of the cormorant management issue and the application for review is wheth-er or not specific species should be managed in order to protect specific values such as habitat and fish populations. Few would question the importance of protecting native habitats and biodiversity. However, there is often controversy over which habitats and which species should be protected and how they ...

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PEACEFUL PARKS COALITION
PO Box 326, Station B, Toronto, Ontario Canada, M5T 2W2 T: 416.537.3212 W: www.peacefulparks.org E: ppc@peaceulparks.org  
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario 2004/2005 ANNUAL REPORT SUPPLEMENT www.eco.on.ca
Review of Application R2004001:
Review of the Amendment to the Management Strategy for Double-crested Cormorants at Presqu’ile Provincial Park
(Review Denied by MNR)
ECO Comment Whether or not to manage cormorants and how to do it have been controversial issues for MNR. In 2002, there was substantial public support for both aggressive and immedi-ate control of cormorant populations, and substantial opposition to the use of popula-tion control measures. In 2002, MNR decided on a middle of-the-road approach – addi-tional research would be done to help fill information gaps and relatively benign control measures would be used in 2003 even though MNR knew that benefits would not be apparent for at least two years. However by March 2004, MNR decided that more aggressive actions were required to re-duce the risk that the western woodland would be irreparably harmed and proposed the 2004 Amendment. Again there was both substantial support and substantial opposition. At the heart of the cormorant management issue and the application for review is wheth-er or not specific species should be managed in order to protect specific values such as habitat and fish populations. Few would question the importance of protecting native habitats and biodiversity. However, there is often controversy over which habitats and which species should be protected and how they should be protected.In addition, does protecting native habitat mean that natural processes should be managed to preserve the current state of an ecosystem or should natural processes be allowed to proceed even if the current state will be changed in the process? The questions that the applicants raise are important and are much broader than the 2004 Amendment. Also at the heart of the cormorant management issue is a lack of understanding of cormorant behaviour and diet, and of the interdependency of cormo-rants and other species particularly other colonial waterbirds. The applicants and others continue to question the scientific basis for MNR’s decisions, the design of the Research and Monitoring Program and the reliability of the data that is being collected.
In our 2002/2003 annual report, the ECO recommended that MNR provide the public with the research results on a proposed cormorant website. The ECO continues to recommend that MNR make this information readily available to the public.
Although the ECO acknowledges that the use of population control measures, including culling may sometimes be necessary, the ECO believes that they should be used only in exceptional circumstances, such as the protection of rare species and ecosystems.
Population control measures are a temporary solution that will need to be repeated for years to come unless the factors that contributed to the “overpopulation” are addressed. They are also expensive and labour-intensive. The other approach is to allow nature to establish its own balance. MNR acknowledges that cormorant activities on the island are natural and that cormorants contribute to biodiversity. However, MNR also believes the cormorants may reduce biodiversity by displacing other tree-nesting colonial water-
PEACEFUL PARKS COALITION
PO Box 326, Station B, Toronto, Ontario Canada, M5T 2W2 T: 416.537.3212 W: www.peacefulparks.org E: ppc@peaceulparks.org  
birds if too many trees are destroyed. Some environmental groups disagree noting that throughout their range cormorants are found nesting with numerous other species, including gulls, terns, herons and egrets.
MNR has met its obligations defined in the EBR for public notice and comment on the 2004 Amendment and has met most of its obligations defined in the EBR for applications for review. MNR could simply have denied the application on the basis that the 2004 Amendment had been decided within the last five years and therefore was exempt, but the ECO is pleased to note that MNR chose to provide a detailed explanation using the criteria defined for decisions made over five years ago. However, since the response to the applicants was signed by MNR’s EBR Co-ordinator, the ECO and the applicants do not know if the requirement for an independent review of the application was met.
The ECO encourages MNR to take a more proactive approach to its cormorant manage-ment policy.Although the ECO recognizes that cormorant management must ultimately be decided on a site-by-site basis, there is currently no overriding provincial policy within which to make those decisions. Sites across Ontario with cormorant colonies are turn-ing into “hotspots” of controversy. Demonstrations against the 2004 Amendment took place at both Queen’s Park and Presqu’ile Provincial Park and resulted in two people being arrested by the Ontario Provincial Police, although the charges were subsequently dropped.
The ECO believes that the lack of a provincial cormorant management policy is contribut-ing to public tension and increasing the risk of civil disobedience. Although MNR has met its obligations for public notice and comment under the EBR, waiting until the last min-ute to post proposals and to make decisions has angered many environmental groups. The applicants have raised important questions that deserve broad and thorough public discussion.
The ECO recommends that MNR develop a comprehensive policy – one that answers questions such as: under what circumstances should cormorant management be under-taken? Should management be undertaken at all, only to protect rare species or habitats, or to protect local values such as fish populations? What management options should be used? What evidence should be provided to make those decisions? Who should be included in the public consultation? Who should make the decision?
While the ECO recognizes that it will be impossible to reconcile the widely divergent views on cormorant management, the ECO believes that developing a province-wide cormorant management policy after broad public consultation will ease tensions and provide a framework under which site-specific decisions can be made. The ECO contin-ues to believe that the use of population control measures in general require a long-term commitment of staff and dollars and do not resolve wildlife issues.