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Nature conservation advisory board decides on shooting quota:: Shooting of cormorants in the Rhein-Sieg-Kreis approved

Nature conservation advisory board decides on shooting quota: : Shooting of cormorants in the Rhein-Sieg-Kreis approved

The Nature Conservation Advisory Board of the Rhein-Sieg-Kreis has decided on the hunting approval of a maximum of 100 cormorants per year. The reason is that they are a threat to the local fish population.

In parts of the Rhein-Sieg district on the right bank of the Rhine, cormorants may be shot from now on. In its meeting last Thursday evening, the advisory board of the Regional Nature Conservation Authority approved a corresponding application by the Sieg Fisheries Cooperative Hennef (SFG) with three votes against and two abstentions, and exempted the SFG from the prohibitions in the nature reserves and areas of the Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive (FFH areas) on the Sieg, Agger and Bröl rivers. Accordingly, individuals with a valid hunting licence may shoot a maximum of 100 of the birds there each year.

The reason for the application is a threat to the native fish population. Cormorants are fish-eaters and, according to SFG Managing Director Wilhelm Kreutzmann, devour about 150 kilograms of fish per year per bird. Currently, 225 pairs inhabit the Rhein-Sieg district and Kreutzmann estimates their population, including offspring, to be about 1,000 birds. According to details of the State Office for Nature, Environment and Consumer Protection NRW (Lanuv), the number of some fish species in the FFH areas of Sieg, Agger, Bröl and Waldbröler Bröl is declining. Hunting of the cormorants is intended to protect the fish fauna.

A further problem is the impact of the birds on the water bodies. Where there are fewer fish, more algae develop, Kreutzmann explained. Investigations on the river Argen also showed that the oxygen content in the water is higher where there are fish. “This has an effect on the entire water system. The ecological balance is disturbed,” said Kreutzmann.

Ralf Jacob of the German branch of Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) criticised the intended course of action. The “real problems”, namely the influence of humans on nature, are ignored in this approach.

Submission of a progress report

Kreutzmann then referred to the “enormous density” of water birds on the Sieg, Agger and Bröl rivers. The population in NRW has grown to 1,490 breeding pairs, more than a seventh of which are in the district. “We are concerned about the problem”, said Armin Nemitz of the Rhineland Fisheries Association – “there is a need for action.”

The three-year decision is subject to several conditions. Shooting may only take place between 16 August and 30 November and only between one and a half hours before sunrise to one and a half hours after sunset. It is limited to the main river courses and the surrounding areas at intervals of 100 metres. Adjacent waters and some areas along the Sieg River are excluded for the protection of goosanders, short-eared owls, little grebes and kingfishers.

Similar to Jacob, Achim Baumgartner (of the BUND) questioned sustainability. “It is completely questionable whether such shooting would have any effect,” Baumgartner said. Advisory board member Maximilian Graf von Nesselrode (from the forestry association), who supported the proposal, said that 100 cormorants was a large number. “We have to get the animals first,” he said. Every shooting has to be reported. Whether the measure will be successful can only be determined to a limited extent after three years anyway, Nemitz said. The recovery of the fish stocks can only be determined over an even longer period of time.

A working group of the advisory council is to study the matter further after two years and monitor it. In addition, a progress report is to be presented to the members after three years, explained the chairman of the advisory council, Norbert Möhlenbruch, who is also chairman of the district hunters' association. A possible extension of the deadline will then be decided.

(Original text: From Alexander Hertel, translation John Chandler)