The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation initiated a Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) control program in the eastern basin of Lake Ontario to mitigate cormorant impacts in 1999. Key objectives included improving the quality of Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu) and other fisheries, restoring the structure and function of the warmwater fish community and reducing cormorant impacts to nesting habitats of other colonial waterbird species. In eight years of intensive control, cormorant numbers declined, with a corresponding reduction in estimated fish consumption. Diversity and numbers of co-occurring waterbirds either increased or have not been shown to be negatively impacted by management. Woody vegetation favorable to Black-crowned Night-Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) has been maintained. A ca. 2.5-fold increase in the abundance of Smallmouth Bass abundance in assessment nets over the last seven years is a sign of improved recruitment to the fishery. Since the target population level of 4,500 to 6,000 cormorants has essentially been achieved, the eastern Lake Ontario cormorant program is expected to shift in 2007 from a population reduction focus towards a less intensive program intended to prevent population resurgence.
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Vol. 35 • No. sp1