Photo Credit: PHOTO BY GREG HOMEL, COURTESY OF AMERICAN BIRD CONSERVANCY - The Army Corps of Engineers wants to kill thousands of these double-crested cormorants to save Columbia River salmon. The American Bird Conservancy is opposing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to kill 16,000 doubled-crested cormorants on East Sand Island in the Columbia River Estuary, a plan designed to prevent the birds from preying on juvenile salmonids and salmon smolt.

The Washington D.C.-based bird conservancy sent a 23-page comment letter to the Army Corps this week, in response to a call for public comments. The Army Corps’ plan to kill the cormorants over four years was spelled out in a draft Environmental Impact Statement.

About 15,000 pairs of double-crested cormorants are estimated to nest on East Sand Island, and the American Bird Conservancy is questioning the science behind the Army Corps’ contention that the population should be reduced to about 5,600 breeding pairs. That proposal “is not based on any rigorous or peer-reviewed analysis,” according to Dr. George Wallace of the American Bird Conservancy.

Salmon smolt consumption in the area by cormorants has varied from 2 million in 2005, which federal fisheries officials have deemed acceptable, to 20 million in 2011, despite little change in the size of the cormorant colony on the island, Wallace said.

The bird conservancy asked the Army Corps to explain “why the same result cannot be achieved through non-lethal methods.”

To read the bird conservancy’s letter to the Army Corps:

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