Cormorants Subject to Local Control, Court Says

     NEW YORK (CN) – A depredation order allowing 25 states to kill a rare species of water bird does not violate international treaties or federal statutes for migratory birds, the 2nd Circuit ruled.

     The Fund for Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, along with several individuals, claimed that a Fish and Wildlife Service depredation order, issued in 1998, illegally allows federal and state agencies and Indian tribes to “kill an unlimited number” of cormorants with few restrictions.
     The service found that double-crested cormorants, a federally protected species, caused localized, site-specific harm in several states, threatening fisheries and other commercial ventures by feeding on local plants, fish and other species, the ruling states.
     FWS could authorize states and local agencies to kill cormorants, Judge Sack said, because third parties are restricted to taking cormorants that are “committing or about to commit” depredations. The order also enables the service to stop takings if necessary and keep tabs on cormorant populations through third-party notification and annual report requirements, the ruling states.
     The three-judge panel affirmed a district court judgment declaring that the depredation order did not violate international treaty obligations or the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

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