Licensed control does not reduce local Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo population size in winter

D. E. Chamberlain, G. E. Austin, S. E. Newson, A. Johnston, N. H.K. Burton

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo have increased on European freshwaters, creating conflicts with fishing interests. As a result, control measures have been implemented in several countries, although their effect on the English population has yet to be determined. Wetland Bird Survey data was used to derive population growth rates (PGR) of non-coastal Cormorant populations in England. PGR was analysed in relation to control intensity at different scales (5- to 30-km radius) from 2001 to 2009 in order to determine (1) the extent to which control intensity (proportion of the local population shot per winter) was associated with site-level population change, and (2) whether potential effects of control intensity were evident on Special Protection Areas (SPAs). There were no clear differences in PGR when comparing sites which had experienced control versus sites where control had never been carried out. The few significant relationships between control intensity and Cormorant PGR detected were mostly positive, i.e. population growth was associated with higher control intensity. Control intensity was not related to Cormorant numbers in SPAs. Positive associations with control may arise because control is reactive, or because non-lethal effects cause greater dispersal of Cormorants. These results provide no evidence that Cormorant removal at local scales is having an effect on longer term (i.e. year-to-year) population size at a site level. They also suggest that control measures have not affected national population trends, although a better understanding of site use and movements of individual Cormorants needs to be developed at smaller scales (including those due to disturbance caused by control measures) to more fully understand processes at larger scales. Further research is also needed into the extent to which lethal and non-lethal effects of control on Cormorants are having the desired impact on predation rates of fish, and so help resolve the conflict between Cormorants and fisheries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-750
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Ornithology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


  • Culling
  • Disturbance
  • Fisheries
  • Human-wildlife conflict
  • Population growth rate
  • SPA
  • Wetland Bird Survey


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