The necessity of balancing conservation issues with the protection of aquaculture activities drives research to quantify the impact of the Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo and to identify the best mitigation strategies. This study aims to characterise the diet in relation to the possible impact of the Great Cormorant on the extensive aquaculture farms in Friuli Venezia Giulia region in the upper Adriatic Sea. The diet of the species was investigated by analysing 459 pellets, collected monthly during the winter 2006/2007 in the three most important roosts of the Friuli Venezia Giulia coastline. Cormorants proved to feed mainly on typical fish species of lagoon and coastal waters. By frequency, Sand Smelts Atherina boyeri (54%) and Flounders Platichthys flesus (26%) were the main prey. Flounders played an important role also in terms of biomass (35%), together with mullets (Mugilidae, 28%). Commercially-important aquaculture species (European Seabass Dicentrarchus labrax and Gilthead Bream Sparus aurata) represented only 2% and 14% by frequency and biomass. The diet analysis supports our previous studies, carried out by behavioural observations on Cormorants foraging at different depths, on interactions with the main prey and strategies of exploitation of the fish farms. Our data imply that the Great Cormorant does not have a large effect on aquaculture yield in the north Adriatic Sea.
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Vol. 109 • No. 3