Harassment, or “hazing,” of double-crested cormorants is set to begin soon in several areas along the Oregon Coast in an effort to improve survival of juvenile salmon.
Double-crested cormorants are fish-eating waterbirds that occur throughout the state. The species is an Oregon native, and is particularly prevalent on the state’s estuaries during April through October. Research indicates cormorants can consume significant numbers of juvenile salmon during this time period.
The program will continue through at least July 31 on the lower Columbia River, where hazing will occur at a variety of locations, including Young’s Bay, Blind Slough, and Tongue Point.
To reduce the threat to young fish, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is working with several nonprofit and local governmental organizations to haze cormorants on six coastal estuaries over the next two to four months.
Hazing will involve driving the birds from locations where juvenile salmon are seasonally concentrated, toward areas where non-salmon fish species are more abundant. Workers will use boats and, on some estuaries, small pyrotechnics, to accomplish the task.
Hazing is intended to increase the survival of both wild-spawned and hatchery salmon juveniles as they migrate to the ocean. Some of these spring migrants represent species that are experiencing conditions of conservation risk, including coho salmon, which is federally threatened in Oregon under the Endangered Species Act.
Hazing workers are being provided by the Clatsop County Fisheries Project, Port of Nehalem, Port of Bandon, North Coast Salmon and Steelhead Enhancement Fund, and Alsea Sportsmen’s Association. ODFW will provide a portion of the funding and program oversight, and will conduct some hazing operations itself to protect hatchery releases on the lower Columbia River.
ODFW has coordinated the cormorant hazing project for the last eight years, although cormorant hazing in some form has occurred at some Oregon estuaries intermittently since 1988.