US Fish & Wildlife Service
Date of this Version
Wires, L.R., F.J. Cuthbert, D.R. Trexel and A.R. Joshi. 2001. Status of the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) in North America. Final Report to USFWS.
Introduction: Since the late-1970s, numbers of Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) (DCCO) have increased significantly in many regions of North America. A variety of problems, both real and perceived, have been associated with these increases, including impacts to aquaculture, sport and commercial fisheries, natural habitats, and other avian species. Concern is especially strong over impacts to sport and commercial fishes and aquaculture. Because of increasing public pressure on U.S. government agencies to reduce DCCO conflicts, the USFWS is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Wildlife Services (USDA/WS) and state resource management agencies, will develop a national management plan for the DCCO. This assessment will be used to prepare the EIS and management plan.
Populations and trends: The DCCO breeding range in North America is divided into five geographic areas. Since at least 1980, numbers have clearly increased in three of the breeding areas: Canadian and U.S. interior, Northeast Atlantic Coast and Southern U.S. In these populations, much of the growth occurred between the late 1970s – early 1990s; from the early 1990s – 2000 growth rates have slowed or appeared to stabilize in many states and provinces. For the Pacific Coast and Alaskan breeding populations it was not possible to summarize trends overall because recent data for birds breeding in significant portions of these regions (e.g., Alaska, Mexico) are not available, or have not been collected in a coordinated and timely fashion for the populations as a whole. Along some parts of the Pacific Coast, breeding numbers declined in the 1990s (e.g., British Columbia, species is listed as Vulnerable and is being considered for Threatened status). In other areas significant increases occurred. Concurrently, numbers also increased on the wintering grounds, particularly in the Mississippi River Delta region, an area of high human-cormorant conflict over catfish resources.
Many historical records from across the continent indicate that the species was or may have been more abundant and widespread than is currently presumed. While most of these early accounts are largely qualitative, many report huge numbers of cormorants, suggesting that recent population increases may represent recovery towards historical (presettlement) levels in certain regions. In some areas where the DCCO has been documented as a recent breeder, the species is actually re-colonizing after an absence of 50 – 300 years.