Diverse management techniques have been used to mitigate conflicts between humans and double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) including harassment methods supplemented by lethal take. In this study we evaluated impacts of programs to harass spring migrating cormorants on the walleye (Sander vitreus) fishery in Brevoort Lake and the yellow perch (Perca flavescens) and walleye fisheries at Drummond Island. Cormorant foraging declined significantly (p<0.05) at both locations subsequent to initiation of harassment programs. Overall harassment deterred 90% of cormorant foraging attempts while taking less than 6% lethally on average at each site. Yellow perch were a predominate prey item in number and biomass at both locations. Walleye made up a small proportion of the diet at both locations. However, both walleye and yellow perch abundance increased significantly (p<0.05) at Drummond Island. Walleye abundance at age 3 increased to record levels in 2008 following 3 years of cormorant management at Brevoort Lake. The estimated cormorant consumption of age-1 walleye in the absence of management at Brevoort Lake during 2005 would account for 55% of the record 2006 age-1 walleye population. These results support the hypothesis that cormorant predation on spawning aggregations of sportfish was a significant mortality factor and cormorant management reduced sportfish mortality and increased abundance at both locations. Continuation of harassment programs and fishery assessments will determine whether improvement of targeted sport fisheries through control of spring migrating cormorants is sustainable.
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Vol. 36 • No. 2