The Cost of Cormorants

The Cost of Cormorants


The Cost of Cormorants: A New York Perspective

photo of cormorant with dollar bill in mouthOneida Lake in New York consistently ranks among the top five most important fisheries in the state. The lake is commonly referred to as the “The Walleye Lake of New York State” and supports healthy populations of popular sportfish, including walleye, yellow perch, and smallmouth bass. In the early 1990s, however, walleye and yellow perch populations in Oneida Lake declined dramatically due to increased predation by double-crested cormorants. Officials worried that these impacts were potentially suppressing the state's recreational fishing industry.

Since 1998, WS and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have been monitoring, recording and managing the cormorant populations on Oneida Lake. WS employees use boat chases, pyrotechnics, nest control, and limited lethal removal to reduce cormorant numbers. In 2007, NWRC economists were asked to conduct an economic analysis to determine 1) the total cumulative impact of cormorants on the Oneida Lake Region in terms of jobs and revenue lost, and 2) the total cumulative benefits and costs of WS cormorant management actions to the region.

NWRC economist Dr. Stephanie Shwiff used information regarding decreases in the number of nonresident fishing licenses sold and associated hotel, food and travel expenditures to estimate losses in revenue and jobs in the regional economy. Models predicted costs associated with 15%, 30% and 50% drops in the number of nonresident anglers to Oneida Lake. Results showed that potential revenue and job losses ranged from approximately $100M-$500M and 3,000-12,000 jobs, respectively.

"Results show that cormorants can potentially have devastating economic impacts to the local economy around Oneida Lake," notes Stephanie Shwiff. "On the bright side, WS activities were shown to provide significant economic benefits."

Economic analysis also showed that for every $1 spent on cormorant management, $13-$50 were saved in the Oneida Lake Region. Additionally, 1,400-5,000 jobs were saved due to cormorant management.

"NWRC's study clearly shows that our management activities on cormorants are having a positive effect to the local economy," states WS New York State Director Martin Lowney. "This type of information helps validate current management practices and highlights the valuable service WS provides to our state and federal partners."

The study was conducted in collaboration with Cornell University, the Oneida Lake Association and the DEC. Cornell University conducted the original cormorant research showing their impacts to walleye and yellow perch populations. The DEC provided data for the economic analysis.

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