Transcript: What To Do About the Double-Crested Cormorant | Jun 25, 2019

Jeyan sits in the studio. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and floral print tie.

A caption on screen reads "Ontario Hubs: Cormorants in the crosshairs. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

Jeyan says THE ONTARIO GOVERNMENT
IS MULLING OVER A PROPOSAL THAT
WOULD PERMIT HUNTERS TO CULL
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS.
THE BIRDS HAVE GAINED A
REPUTATION OF BEING GLUTTONOUS
AND DESTRUCTIVE, BUT JUST A FEW
DECADES AGO, THE MIGRATORY BIRD
WAS NEARLY WIPED OUT.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs."

(BOAT MOTOR REVVING)

A man in his seventies drives a boat.

Jeyan says JIM LUDWIG HAS
DEDICATED HIS LIFE TO STUDYING
BIRDS IN AND AROUND THE GREAT
LAKES.
ON THIS MAY MORNING, HE'S HEADED
TO MIDDLE SISTER ISLAND.
IT'S PART OF THE PELEE
ARCHIPELAGO IN THE WESTERN BASIN
OF LAKE ERIE AND JUST NORTH OF
THE CANADA-U.S. BORDER.

A satellite image of the border between Canada and the U.S. appears on screen. Windsor appears highlighted. Then, the view homes in on Middle Sister Island.

A clip shows seabird chicks in ground nests in a forest, then adult cormorants.

Jeyan says IT IS CONSIDERED TO BE THE MOST
UNDISTURBED OF THESE ISLANDS.
GULLS, HERONS AND WHITE
PELICANS, RELATIVELY NOW TO THIS
AREA, CALL THIS AREA HOME.
THAT'S NOT WHAT THE 78-YEAR-OLD
IS HERE FOR.
HE'S HERE FOR DOUBLE-CRESTED
CORMORANTS.
THEY'RE THE MOST COMMON
CORMORANT IN NORTH AMERICA.
THEY HAVE BLACK FEATHERS,
VISIBLE ORANGE-YELLOW PATCH ON
THEIR THROAT, AND BRIGHT
GREEN-BLUE EYES.
THEY'RE PROLIFIC HUNTERS, DIVING
TO DEPTHS OF 25 FEET OR MORE,
THEY EAT ABOUT A HALF A KILOGRAM
OR A POUND OF FISH EVERY DAY.
BEYOND MIDDLE SISTER ISLAND,
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS HAVE
BEEN A RESIDENT OF LAKE OF THE
WOODS SINCE THE LATE 1700s.

An animated satellite map of North America shows a cormorant flying from Lake of the Woods to Thunder Bay.

Jeyan says THE EARLIEST MODERN NESTING
RECORDS IS IN LAKE SUPERIOR IN
1913 AND THEY'RE CONSIDERED A
NATIVE SPECIES.
THIS YEAR, LUDWIG IS STUDYING TO
FIND OUT IF THERE'S A DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN CORMORANTS IN THE UPPER
LAKES AND THE LOWER LAKES, AND
ONE WAY HE'S DOING THAT IS BY
MEASURING THE SIZE OF THEIR EGGS.

In the woods, Jim says WHAT I'LL DO IS I'LL
CALCULATE THE VOLUME OF EACH
EGG, AND WE COMPARE THAT WITH
THE ONES UP NORTH.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Jim Ludwig."

Jim says I'VE BEEN MEASURING EGGS OF ALL
THE SPECIES AND THEY'RE A LOT
SMALLER THAN THEY WERE IN 1985
TO 1995, WHEN I WAS DOING A LOT
OF WORK ON THEM.

Jeyan says HE WAS ALSO ON THE
SEARCH FOR SICK AND DYING
CORMORANTS ON THIS ISLAND.

Jim says LAST YEAR THERE WERE 335.
THERE WAS SOMETHING GOING ON
LAST YEAR.
WE STILL DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS.

A clip shows sick cormorants shaking, and others dead.

Jeyan says LUDWIG EXPLAINS
CORMORANTS ARE VERY SUSCEPTIBLE
TO A VIRUS CALLED NEWCASTLE
DISEASE.
IT ATTACKS THE BIRD'S CENTRAL
NERVOUS SYSTEM, LEAVING THEM
UNABLE TO FLY AND EVEN STAND.
IT CAN AFFECT A WIDE VARIETY OF
AVIAN SPECIES, BOTH WILD AND
DOMESTIC.
WHILE THE RISKS OF CONTRACTING
THE VIRUS IS MINIMAL IN HUMANS,
THE VIRUS IS DEADLY FOR
CORMORANTS, AND IT'S NOT THE
FIRST THREAT THE BIRDS HAVE FACED.

Jim says 1947, DD, IT GETS INTRODUCED
IN TREMENDOUS QUANTITIES.
CORMORANTS, EAGLES, PEREGRINE
FALCONS, ALL OF THESE SPECIES
THAT HAPPEN TO HAVE A
SENSITIVITY TO EGGSHELL
THINNING, WENT INTO VERY STEEP DECLINE.

Jeyan says ACCORDING TO
ENVIRONMENT CANADA, THE NUMBER
OF NESTING PAIRS DECREASED BY
NEARLY 90 PERCENT FROM ROUGHLY
900 IN THE EARLY '50s TO JUST
125 IN 1973 FROM TOXIC CHEMICALS.

In old grainy footage a balding man says AS THAT PROBLEM CLEARED UP...

Jeyan says LUDWIG, SEEN HERE IN
THIS FIELD REPORT FROM 1989,
STUDIED THE EFFECT OF CHEMICALS
LIKE PCBs AND DDT IN THE UPPER
GREAT LAKES.

As footage shows gloved hands handling a hatchling, a male announcer says THEY EXPRESSED THEMSELVES AS
BIRTH DEFECTS, THE MOST COMMON,
A SWELLING OF TISSUES AROUND THE
HEAD, NECK, AND ABDOMEN, CALLED
EDEMA.

The man says THAT WOULD BE ENOUGH TO
PROBABLY PREVENT THIS GUY FROM
HATCHING.

Jeyan says IN SOME CASES, BIRDS
DEVELOPED DEFORMITIES IN THEIR
BEAKS.

The announcer says THIS BIRD HAS BEEN LEFT BY
ITS MOTHER TO DIE.
WITH A TWISTED BILL, IT CANNOT
FEED ITSELF.

Jim says NOW WE MOVE FORWARD INTO THE
'70s.
THE DDT HAS BEEN BANNED.
CORMORANTS START TO COME BACK.
AND WHEN THEY COME BACK, THEY
FIND SOMETHING THAT WASN'T THERE
IN 1947, AND THAT'S THE FISH.

A clip shows fish swimming near the surface in fast-running water.

Jeyan says THIS INVASIVE FISH
SPREAD THROUGH THE GREAT LAKES
AND IS AN IDEAL SIZE FOR
CORMORANTS TO EAT, WHICH
CONTRIBUTED TO THEIR POPULATION
REBOUND TO SUCH AN EXTENT THAT
WILDLIFE OFFICIALS HAD TO MANAGE
THEIR NUMBERS THROUGH CULLS,
DESTROYING EGGS, AND REMOVING
NESTS.
IN 2019 THE PROVINCE PROPOSED A
HUNTING SEASON.
CURRENTLY CORMORANTS ARE
PROTECTED UNDER THE FISH AND
WILDLIFE CONSERVATION ACT.

A caption reads "David Clark."

David, balding, in his forties, says NO ONE WANTS TO PLAY GOD, AND
ANYONE WHO CARES ABOUT ANY KIND
OF WILDLIFE, THE LAST THING WE
WANT TO DO IS PLAY GOD WITH THINGS.

A clip shows several anglers fishing.

Jeyan says DAVID CLARK IS THE
DIRECTOR OF TUFA, TORONTO URBAN
FISHING AMBASSADORS.
THE COMMUNITY GROUP REPRESENTS
OVER 2400 ANGLERS AND HELPS TO
PROMOTE RECREATIONAL FISHING
WITHIN THE GREATER TORONTO AREA.

A caption reads "Peter Weldon."

Peter, in his fifties, bearded, says THE CORMORANTS ARE DECIMATING
OUR IN SHORE FISHERY AT FIRST
AND WE'VE LOSS ALREADY OUR
PERCH, OUR ROCK BASS, AND
SUNFISH.

As he fishes, he says THE WALLEYE FISHING...

Another man says DO YOU WANT TO GO OUT?

David says WE USUALLY DO FAMILY FISHING
EVENTS.
IT'S USUALLY DIRECTED TOWARDS
KIDS.
AND IT'S DONE AT STORM WATER
PONDS WHERE THE WATER IS
SHALLOW, IT'S A SAFER SITUATION,
AND THEY'RE USUALLY NOVICE
FISHERIES THERE.
THE LAST TWO OR THREE YEARS,
MOST OF OUR FAMILY FISHING
EVENTS ARE ACCOMPANIED WITH
CORMORANTS, AND AT FIRST KIDS
ARE REALLY EXCITED ABOUT THE
BIRDS.
THEY SEE THE BIRDS CATCHING
FISH, AND THEY POINT THAT OUT,
JUST LIKE THEY DO THE TURTLES
AND STUFF, AND ARE PRETTY
EXCITED ABOUT IT.
BUT BY THE END OF THE EVENT, THE
BIRDS HAVE CAUGHT WAY MORE FISH
THAN OUR WHOLE GROUP OF 200 KIDS FISHING.

Jeyan says ANGLERS IN AND
AROUND LAKE ONTARIO ARE
COMPETING WITH ONE OF THE
LARGEST CORMORANT COLONIES IN
NORTH AMERICA.

A map of Toronto appears on screen, highlighting the location of the Tommy Thompson Park.

Jeyan says THEY NEST AT TOMMY THOMPSON PARK
NEAR THE TORONTO ISLANDS AND
HAVE BEEN HERE SINCE 1990.
ACCORDING TO 2018 FIGURES, THERE
ARE OVER 14,000 NESTING PAIRS IN
THE COLONY.

David says 170 DAYS A YEAR, CORMORANTS
ARE IN THE GTA AREA, AND THEY'RE
EATING A POUND OF FISH A DAY.
SO IT'S 170 POUNDS OF FISH EACH
CORMORANT IS TAKING.

Jeyan says BEING MIGRATORY
BIRDS, CORMORANTS STAY IN THE
AREAS FROM EARLY MARCH TO ABOUT
SEPTEMBER.
THEY NEST USUALLY ATOP TREES,
ROCKS, AND ON THE GROUND NEAR
BODIES OF WATER AND LAY THREE TO
FOUR EGGS.
AT TOMMY THOMPSON PARK, THE
BIRD'S ACIDIC DROPPINGS HAVE
BEEN WELL DOCUMENTED.
OVER THE YEARS THE TREE CANOPY
HAS ERODED AND THE TREES THEY
ONCE NESTED UPON HAVE BEEN
DESTROYED.
OFFICIALS ARE TRYING TO GET
CORMORANTS TO NEST OFF TREES.
LAST YEAR 75 PERCENT OF THE
14,000 NESTS WERE ON THE GROUND.
THE POPULATION HERE, THOUGH, IS
NOT MANAGED, MEANING OFFICIALS
DON'T ROIL EGGS OR KILL THEM.

David says IT'S KIND OF APOCALYPTIC
SCENE BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS
DEAD.
THERE'S NOTHING THERE BUT THE
BLACKBIRDS IN THE NEST.

Jeyan says IT'S JUST ONE OF THE
CONCERNS DAVID AND HIS GROUP
INCLUDED IN THE FEEDBACK TO THE
PROVINCE ON THE HUNTING SEASON.
THE OTHER: THAT THE HUNTING
PROPOSAL WILL NOT HAVE A
SIGNIFICANT ENOUGH IMPACT TO
CONTROL AND DECREASE THE NUMBER
OF CORMORANTS IN THE GTA.
THAT'S BECAUSE HUNTING ISN'T
ALLOWED IN AREAS LIKE TOMMY
THOMPSON PARK.
THE CURRENT PROPOSAL WOULD LIST
THE CORMORANT AS A GAME BIRD AND
ALLOW ANYONE WITH A VALID
LICENCE TO SHOOT AND KILL UP TO
50 CORMORANTS A DAY, FROM MARCH
TO DECEMBER.
WHILE HIGHLY UNLIKELY, THAT
WOULD ALLOW 100 TO KILL OVER
13,000 OF THEM IN A SINGLE YEAR.
CORMORANTS HAVE NO VALUE ON THE
COMMERCIAL MARKET, AND THEIR
FISHY TASTE ISN'T POPULAR AMONG
MANY HUNTERS.

Peter says I DON'T LIKE TO SEE THINGS
JUST KILLED FOR THE SAKE OF
KILLING.
YOU KNOW, I'D RATHER SEE THE
CONTROLS AS FAR AS ROILING THEIR
EGGS AND DESTROYING THEIR NESTS
AND, YOU KNOW, I'D RATHER DO IT
THAT WAY.
BUT DRASTIC MEASURES NEED TO BE
TAKEN AT THIS POINT.

Jeyan says JIM LUDWIG DOESN'T
MINCE WORDS ON HIS OPINION ABOUT
THE PROPOSED HUNTING SEASON ON CORMORANTS.

Jim says IT'S PROBABLY THE MOST
BONE-HEADED THING I HAVE SEEN
PROPOSED IN A LONG, LONG TIME.
SUPPOSE YOU ALLOWED A BUNCH,
HUNDREDS TO GO OUT THERE.
THERE ARE WHITE PELICANS NESTING
ON THE ISLAND, THERE'S HERRING
GULLS.
AND IF THEY'RE GOING TO GO
AROUND THAT ISLAND SHOOTING
CORMORANTS, THEY'RE GOING TO
UPSET THOSE SPECIES TOO AND KEEP
THEM AWAY FROM THEIR CHICKS, OFF
THEIR NEST.

Jeyan says HIS SUGGESTION FOR
PLACES LIKE MIDDLE SISTER
ISLAND: LET NATURE DO ITS THING.

Jim says IF YOU JUST LEAVE THEM ALONE,
I THINK THE EAGLES ARE GOING TO
SOLVE THE PROBLEM.
(a) IT'S A NATURAL SOLUTION
AND (b) YOU'RE NOT PUTTING
PEOPLE AT RISK AND YOU'RE NOT
PUTTING ANY OTHER SPECIES AT
RISK.
THERE IS NOT A SINGLE PERSON
ALIVE TODAY THAT HAS SEEN THESE
WATERS IN A STABLE CONDITION
FROM AN ECOLOGICAL STANDPOINT.
CHANGE IS THE STATUS OF THE
GREAT LAKES.
IT'S ALWAYS CHANGING.

A caption reads "Ontario Hubs Field Producer, Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. Editor, David Erwin."

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: What To Do About the Double-Crested Cormorant