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The populations of cormorants have been increasing very rapidly since 1970, particularly in fresh water. In the United Kingdom, fishermen, the Ministry and British naturalists are very worried about the presence of these birds. It is estimated that at the moment the European population of cormorants numbers between 250 000 and 300 000 couples. Approximately 7500 pairs nest in the United Kingdom and 1500 of these on fresh water. During the Winter, half of the 25 000 to 30 000 are on inland waters. In the British Isles there are two sorts of cormorant: the large cormorant (Carbo carbo sinensis) which nests in trees and comes from Northern Europe in Winter and the small cormorant (Carbo carbo) which nests on the ground and lives near the sea. Since the Middle Ages populations have been controlled by withdrawing eggs but from 1960 onwards the populations have been increasing. Since 1981, in the United Kingdom as in all of Europe the cormorant has been protected by a Bird Protection Directive (1979). They cannot be eliminated either in the nest or have their eggs destroyed. When they cause serious problems for the fishing industry and for other wild species shooting permits can be issued.

The cormorant eats exclusively a diet of fish and mainly live fish. Its prey measures 5 to 15 cms but is sometimes much bigger. The damage to fish farming is serious as cormorants injure many fish which they do not actually consume and these fish cannot be sold. They have a severe impact on the ecological and economic situation for ponds and reservoirs even if the consequences are difficult to estimate precisely. Cormorants make no distinction between the species they eat and consume both common and protected fish, and in particular, migratory species such as salmon, sea trout and eels. These species already suffer from a deterioration in the quality of water and their environment and the presence of these birds makes the situation even worse and endangers their preservation. The harm and strain inflicted by the birds is more or less manageable depending on the areas of water concerned and the existing fish populations. Each case is particular and it is impossible to define an acceptable level of presence. The impact of cormorants on the fish can be diminished in different ways either directly or indirectly. The environment could be improved and zones created which would be impenetrable to cormorants. The measures would have less impact in the areas most favorable to fish. Is shooting helpful ? The English are very doubtful about the results ! After a shooting session the birds leave but only to come back a few days later. The birds which have been killed are replaced by others which take advantage of the situation. Shooting and scaring do not seem to have an effect on the population present in any one place. To acheive a real reduction in the number of birds present in Europe it would be necessary to shoot 50 000 to 60 000 cormorants ! Is this really possible ? Is it reasonable? Wouldn't it be better to confine cormorants to less sensitive areas (lakes, rivers) rather than shooting them or frightening them away to other sensitive sites? Moreover shooting is hardly practicable in some places such as towns. A local approach to the problem would seem more efficient than random shooting. The best solution would most likely be to tackle the issue, as in the past, at its source, which means at the nesting sites. To reduce reproduction by limiting the number of birds nesting seems obvious