Proposal to establish a hunting season for double-crested cormorants in Ontario

ERO number
013-4124
Notice type
Policy
Act
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997
Posted by
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Notice stage
Decision
Decision posted
Comment period
November 19, 2018 - January 3, 2019 (45 days) Closed
Last updated

This consultation was open from:
November 19, 2018
to January 3, 2019

Decision summary

Amendments have been made to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997 and supporting regulations (Ontario Regulation 665/98 (Hunting) and Ontario Regulation 670/98 (Open Seasons) to create a hunting season for double-crested cormorants in Ontario.

Decision details

On July 30, 2020, regulatory amendments were made to create a fall hunting season for double-crested cormorant in Ontario. 

Rules for hunting double-crested cormorants

Double-crested cormorants have been listed as a ‘game bird’. People can hunt cormorants under the authority of an Outdoors Card and Small Game Licence, similar to other species listed as ‘game birds’. 

People can hunt cormorants in accordance with the FWCA and small game hunting requirements. The following additional rules apply with respect to hunting cormorants:

1. Open seasons in all Wildlife Management Units: September 15-December 31.

2. Harvest limit: 15 birds per day.

3. Allowed firearms: Shotguns (including muzzle-loading shotguns) not larger than 10 gauge with non-toxic ammunition. Shotgun cannot be loaded with a shell containing a single projectile.

4. Use of vehicles: Hunters are permitted to hunt double-crested cormorant from a stationary motorboat (motorboat is not in motion and the power to the motor has been turned off).

5. Hunter orange: Consistent with hunting migratory game birds other than woodcock, hunters are exempt from the requirement to wear hunter orange during the open season for:

  • deer
  • elk
  • moose

6. Retrieval and disposal, hunters must:

  • have adequate means of retrieving any bird that is shot, and
  • immediately retrieve the bird, dispatch the bird if it is alive when retrieved, and include it in their bag limit

If hunters choose to not use the birds they harvest, they must dispose of the birds by either:

  • delivering it to an approved waste disposal site that permits the disposal of dead animals
  • delivering it to a disposal facility, or using the services of a licensed collector, under the Disposal of Deadstock Regulation (Ontario Regulation 105/09) made under the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2001
  • burying it on private land owned by the hunter, or on private land occupied by the hunter with consent of the land owner

All other relevant federal, provincial, and municipal laws/rules related to hunting apply (e.g. trespassing, municipal discharge of firearms by-laws, federal firearm licensing requirements, etc.).

To support the hunting season, we have also initiated a cormorant monitoring program to assess population status and trends.

The season has been implemented through amendments to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997 and following regulations made under the Act: Ontario Regulation 665/98 (Hunting), Ontario Regulation 669/98 (Wildlife Schedules) and Ontario Regulation 670/98 (Open Seasons).

Comments received

Through the registry

3,709

By email

2,118

By mail

33
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

The feedback we received in support of the proposal included:

  • concerns about the negative impact of cormorants on fish stocks and natural habitats and aesthetics
  • concerns that cormorant population levels are too high
  • the need for clear requirements regarding retrieving and disposing of birds
  • suggested modifications to the season length and harvest limit

The feedback we received that did not support the proposal primarily cited concerns regarding:

  • the 50 bird per day harvest limit being too high
  • the season length being too long
  • the season conflicting with the migratory bird nesting season and summer recreational activities
  • the potential for improperly disposed of birds to litter waterways and shorelines
  • lack of scientific evidence supporting the proposal

Some people that were opposed recommended targeted cormorant control measures instead of a hunting season.

Support for a cormorant monitoring program was heard from both those who opposed and supported the proposal. 

In response to feedback received, we:

  • reduced the harvest limit from 50 to 15 birds per day
  • reduced the season length to include a fall hunting season only

Supporting materials

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Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.

Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.

MNRF - FWPB - Wildlife Section
Address

300 Water Street
5th Floor, North tower
Peterborough, ON
K9J 3C7
Canada

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Contact

Public Input Coordinator

Phone number
Office
MNRF Fish and Wildlife Policy Branch – Wildlife Section
Address

300 Water Street
5th Floor, North Tower
Peterborough, ON
K9J 3C7
Canada

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Original proposal

ERO number
013-4124
Notice type
Policy
Act
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997
Posted by
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Proposal posted

Comment period

November 19, 2018 - January 3, 2019 (45 days)

Proposal details

This notice was updated on November 7, 2019 to inform the public that proposed amendments to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997, received First Reading on November 6, 2019 in the Ontario Legislature, and to provide a link to the proposed legislation - see updated link below.

If the proposed legislative amendments are passed by the legislature, the ministry would have to advance regulatory amendments before a double-crested cormorant hunting season could be created.

Double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) populations declined significantly in the Great Lakes from the 1950s to the 1970s primarily due to environmental contaminants affecting reproduction. Their numbers began to increase rapidly from the 1970s to the early 2000s, with the latest information indicating Great Lakes populations have since stabilized or declined slightly.

There continues to be concerns expressed by some groups (commercial fishing industry, property owners) and individuals that cormorants have been detrimental to fish populations, island forest habitats, other species and aesthetics.

To respond to these concerns, the Ministry is proposing to create a hunting season for double-crested cormorants in Ontario. This new population management tool would allow persons who hold a small game licence to hunt these birds.

The following regulatory changes are being proposed to create a hunting season for double-crested cormorants beginning in 2019:

  1. List the double-crested cormorant as a “Game Bird”.Hunters would be required to have an outdoors card and small game licence to hunt double-crested cormorants, similar to other species of game birds.
  2. Create an open hunting season for double-crested cormorant from March 15 to December 31 each year across the province.
  3. Create an exemption allowing small game licences to be valid for double-crested cormorant hunting in central and northern Ontario from June 16 to August 31 each year.
  4. Establish a bag limit of 50 cormorants/day with no possession limit.
  5. Prescribe shotgun and shot size/type requirements consistent with migratory bird hunting regulations outlined in the federal Migratory Birds Regulations. This would include use of shotguns that are not larger than 10 gauge, that cannot hold more than three shells and use non-toxic shot as described in the migratory bird regulations.
  6. Allow hunting from a stationary motorboat.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act currently prohibits anyone who kills game wildlife (including game birds), or who possesses game wildlife killed by hunting, from allowing that meat to spoil. Via this posting, the Ministry is also consulting on a proposal to amend the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act to add provisions so hunters could allow cormorant to spoil.This proposal would add provisions to the Act, so that persons who lawfully hunt (or possess) cormorants could be exempt from this requirement and would be subject to conditions that require the person to retrieve and dispose of the carcass.Should this proposal proceed, it may be accompanied by regulations to implement the exemption and requirements.

To accompany the proposed hunting seasons, the Ministry will implement a cormorant monitoring program to assess population status and trends. Monitoring of cormorants will allow the Ministry to assess the impacts of the hunting season and to adjust cormorant hunting regulations if necessary to address any concerns about population sustainability.

The Ministry intends to amend the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act and supporting regulations (including Ontario Regulation 670/98 Open Seasons, Ontario Regulation 665/98 Hunting) to implement the proposal should it proceed. No additional opportunity for comments will be provided.

Public consultation opportunities

To comment on the proposal, please submit your comments online by clicking the ‘Submit a comment’ button, or by reaching out to the contact(s) listed.The Ministry may notify some groups that otherwise are unlikely to become aware of the proposal.

Regulatory impact statement

The anticipated environmental consequences of the proposal are expected to be neutral. The double-crested cormorant is abundant in Ontario and anticipated levels of harvest aren’t expected to affect sustainability. Hunters will continue to be reminded to properly identify their targets to avoid conflicts with migratory game birds and other waterbirds. Monitoring of cormorant populations will allow adjustments in cormorant hunting regulations as necessary.

The anticipated social consequences are both positive and negative. Those interested in hunting cormorants or who believe cormorants are having detrimental impacts will likely support the proposed changes. Individuals and groups opposing cormorant hunting or hunting during summer months will likely oppose the proposed changes.

The anticipated economic consequences of the proposal are expected to be neutral but depend on levels of hunter participation.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Important notice: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, viewing supporting materials in person is not available at this time.

Please reach out to the Contact listed in this notice to see if alternate arrangements can be made.

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from November 19, 2018
to January 3, 2019

Connect with us

Contact

Public Input Coordinator

Phone number
Email address
Office
Species Conservation Policy Branch
Address

300 Water Street
Floor 5N
Peterborough, ON
K9J 3C7
Canada

Office phone number