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Ronan's report

Saturday February 20th 2010

I've been complaining a little about the long and hard winter we're experiencing here in Denmark. And while it bugs me that the fishing we usually have during winter is all but shut down, there's something else that bugs me even more

It's a bird - more specifically - the cormorants. The cormorant was a threatened bird in Denmark about 20 years ago and there weren't many left. So a lot of things were done to protect them and the cormorant quickly responded with increasing their numbers - to begin with to everyone's joy.

However, they are effective breeders and very shy creatures, which usually results in numbers exploding - which is exactly what happened. Cormorants eat fish - they need about 500 grams of fish a day to survive a winter like this. An estimated 30.000 cormorants are spending the winter in Denmark this year, which - with a little quick math - means that they eat 15.000 kilos of fish - EVERY DAY! That's 15 tons of fish every day!!!

The Danish Center for Wild Salmon carry out electrofishing every year, and their initial reports indicate that in some systems, cormorants have eaten up to 90% of all smolt and other small fish. They have fished several kilometers of stream and seen long stretches with absolutely no fish where they usually see a lot.

The problem this winter is that even on the open shore, everything is frozen over, and running water stays open much longer. Cormorants need to feed, and they quickly search out open water.

This is of course the order of Nature herself, and I can't really see what can be done. Regulating the population is, as far as I'm aware, allowed in some areas and in certain cases, but hunters aren't interested - the birds aren't good food and they're shy and hard to get at. The cormorant population is right now supported by the smolt (salmon and trout) that are released to support wild fish populations. Most rivers aren't capable of total selfsustaining reprodcuction since many, many rivers were destroyed in the 1930-ies and onwards. Rivers were dug out and straightened out to drain farm land, and the were same draining is causing sedimentation in the smaller tributaries, where trout and salmon prefer to spawn. Seemingly a never ending downwards spiral.....

While the problem with the cormorants remains unresolved, the physical condition of the waterways is thankfully improving greatly due to restoration-projects.

Have a great weekend!


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