To the Editor:
Double-crested Cormorants are dark colored, fish eating, non-game birds that are native to South Carolina. When flying, Cormorants can be mistaken for large ducks or geese; when swimming, for American Loons or Anhingas. Cormorants can often be seen flying over or foraging for fish in large bodies of water in South Carolina.
Late in 2013, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) announced its plan to authorize and orchestrate the killing of Double-crested Cormorants on Lakes Marion and Moultrie. Soon after the end of the waterfowl hunting season in late January 2014, SCDNR will permit members of the public to shoot these birds. The reason offered by SCDNR for this Cormorant hunt is that they are depleting the stocks of fish in these lakes.
I have been a fisherman throughout my life, and I know how anglers will often blame anything for the fact that they didn’t catch fish on a particular day or for the fact that the “big one” got away. Now, fishermen in the big lakes are blaming these native birds for what they perceive is a decline in the game fishery. Furthermore, these fishermen – and the politicians that they have lobbied – are pushing SCDNR to allow the killing of Cormorants.
When I requested scientific evidence from SCDNR to justify this proposed hunt, none was provided. I strongly suspect that none exists. Rather, as I’ve said, I believe that SCDNR has been pushed and bullied into an unnecessary slaughter of a native non-game bird, by fishermen, fishing guides and a few powerful but misguided politicians.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and its staff have been my valued and trusted partners and colleagues for the entirety of my 40-year conservation career. I have always believed SCDNR’s policies and actions to be driven by hard scientific evidence, so the coming unjustified Cormorant killing is totally out of character.
It is my hope that this letter, and other public expressions of concern and disappointment which it may prompt, will cause those involved to abandon this proposed plan to slaughter these harmless native water birds, for what appears to be no biological reason at all.
Norman L. Brunswig
Audubon South Carolina