Hunters harvested over 11,000 cormorants in South Carolina during the State-sanctioned hunt in 2014. This year’s hunt has been challenged by a lawsuit.
South Carolina’s second cormorant hunting season kicked off on Valentine’s Day under the cloud of a lawsuit filed to stop the hunt. Articles in the Charleston Post and Courier report 520 hunters were offered permits for the 2015 season.
That number represents roughly half of the number who qualified to hunt last year after applying and completing training. Those 520 were the hunters who returned the survey cards, a mandatory step in the permitting process.
The guys in this video were among the hunters who participated in the 2014 hunt on Lakes Moultrie and Marion.
The hunts are designed to control populations of the fish-eating double-crested cormorants. They take place under the authority of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special depredation order. The order states the purpose of the permit program is to reduce depredation at catfish farms and other aquaculture operations. South Carolina is the only one of 13 states known to be using the general public to carry out the population reduction effort.
The South Carolina hunters are acting as agents of the state during the month-long season. Last year, hunters reported 11,653 birds taken.
That take, and the hunt itself, remains controversial. The South Carolina 2014 harvest added as much as 25% to the total number of cormorants killed under the Fish and Wildlife Service removal program, according to a lawsuit filed by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. The National Audubon Society and several other groups are signed on to that lawsuit. Many claim there were just as many cormorants after the hunt as before.
Legislators and angler groups in South Carolina pushed for the unusual tactic of public participation in the cormorant harvest. Some anglers believe cormorants adversely affect fish populations, but there is little scientific evidence to support that contention. But their droppings do kill trees when they congregate in large roosts.
But, the guys in the video seem to have fun.