House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee member State Representative Brad Witt says between now and the next legislative session there may be a fix in the works to reduce the number of salmon smolts lost to hungry Cormorants on the lower Columbia. Witt reports that during the hearing' Richard Hannan, Deputy Regional Director, and Nanette Seto, Chief, Migratory Birds of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for the Pacific Region, testified from their perspective about cormorant predation on juvenile salmonids. From their testimony, it is abundantly clear that cormorants maintain areas of high population densities near much of our state's critical salmonid habitat. It is also true that many of these areas are suffering high losses of salmonid smolts. In some cases the majority of juvenile salmonids are being killed.
What is less clear is whether cormorant densities (East Sand Island in the lower Columbia River Estuary has the world's largest population) are significantly responsible for smolt deaths. Whereas cormorants are voracious opportunists, USFWS intends to examine cormorant stomach contents to determine the impact cormorants are having on juvenile salmonid populations.
Committee Member Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach (and former OSP Fish and Game Officer in House District 31), calculated that cormorants eat $250,000 worth of hatchery juveniles and an untold number of native fish every week. Witt says the committe will work toward legislative solutions between now and the next session of the Oregon Legislature