Estonian fishing organizations permitted to control cormorant numbers

Cormorants. Source: ERR

The number of cormorants nesting on islets along the Pärnu River has grown to such an extent, that some fear the birds will soon entirely deplete the river of fish. As a result, the Estonian Environmental Board (Kekkonnaamet) is now authorizing the introduction of measures to contain the population.

On Thursday, representatives of local fishing organizations met with the Estonian Environmental Board (Keskkonnaamet) to discuss the implementation of measures, which will limit the size of the cormorant population along the Pärnu River.

Following a serious debate, it was agreed that measures are indeed necessary in order to ensure the protection of fish stocks in the river. With cormorant numbers continuing to rise each year, the issue has already been the subject of discussions among scientists, who specialize in bird and marine life.

Head of the Estonian Environmental Board Rainer Vakra said, that according to the latest data, there are more than 34,000 pairs of cormorants in Estonia.

"We agreed with the representatives of fishing organizations, on ways to proceed," said Vakra.

"The Environmental Board is prepared to allow partial egg oiling on the islets as well as the use of both sounds and lasers to scare the cormorants and discourage them from (nesting) in the area along the Pärnu River."

Egg oiling involves applying a thin coating of food-grade corn oil to eggs in order to prevent them from hatching.

"The final plan, which will be implemented over the course of several years, is due to be completed in a few months' time. However, we will already start with the (egg oiling and deterrence) activities this year," explained Vakra.

Cormorants are medium-sized birds, with wing-spans of up to a meter in length and can weigh anything up to five kilograms. Cormorants tend to eat around 0.5 kilograms of fish per day and nest in colonies, usually close to the shore, on trees, islets or cliffs.

In Estonia, some islets have already been almost entirely taken over by cormorant colonies. However, local fishing organizations are determined to take back control.

"Fishing organizations are likely to receive permission to oil cormorant eggs this year," said fisherman Tarmo Luks. "We'll give it a try. The last time this happened was in 2004," he added.

"Now we have an agreement, whereby we can oil a certain percentage of the eggs in some nesting areas. So, we'll do that for a few years, and then see what the effect on the population is," Luks explained.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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