One of the most widespread and persistent environmental conflicts in Europe involves the Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo. The ‘continental’ race P. c. sinensis comprises over 80% of the European breeding population and its numbers and geographical distribution have increased and expanded dramatically in recent decades. Consequently, Cormorants have increasingly come into conflict with fisheries interests across Europe, as many people believe that the birds are now so numerous that they cause declines in fish catches, with associated impacts on commercial and recreational fisheries. The Central European policy issue is thus how to deal with: (1) a large pan-European population of Cormorants, (2) very often breeding in some Member States but overwintering and preying upon fish in others, (3) where there is generally a lack of unequivocal scientific evidence for predation impact on fisheries and (4) where there are growing political calls for coordinated European management, whilst (5) many believe that the site-specific local/regional management advocated by some is ineffective. Using case examples and experiences from several pan-European studies and research networks, this paper describes the complexity of this issue and the diversity of associated opinions. Much of the controversy over Cormorants is fuelled by differences of opinion and, coupled with its persistence and entrenched nature, it has many of the characteristics of a so-called ‘intractable environmental conflict’. As such, this paper draws on a ‘reframing’ model proposed to deal with such situations and discusses the various ‘frames’ by which issues are viewed. It also proposes that future research might best focus on specific fisheries sectors that appear to be ‘hotspots’ for conflicts. Here, demonstration projects could involve a reframing exercise, coupled with new scientific research and practical experimentation within an adaptive management framework – one aim of which might be to increase the scope and geographical coverage of effective management activities.
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Vol. 109 • No. 3