EFTTA, The European Fishing Tackle Trade Association, in a press release dated 10 October, criticised the delay in the publication of research into the size of the cormorant population in Europe, which was announced to be made public in September 2008.

Now the Wetland International Cormorant Research Group (WI-CRG) has released some of the awaited figures in a leaflet. Jean-Claude Bel, chief executive of EFTTA said: “We consider this most welcome and timely as there is a cormorant conference next week.  Plus a vote in the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries on the MEP Dr Heinz Kindermann’s draft report on the adoption of a European Cormorant Management Plan to minimise the increasing impact of cormorants on fish stocks, fishing and aquaculture.”

The WI-CRG leaflet gives a valuable overview of a preliminary analysis of a census of the cormorant breeding colonies. it includes a population estimate of 1.2 million cormorants for the population per January 2007. However, at that time of year the cormorant population is at its lowest due to winter mortality. The leaflet has no figure for the total summer population only the number of counted nests. The summer population of cormorants is much bigger than the winter population as this is after the breeding season when the youngs of the year have fledged (grown up).

M. Bel said: “The MEP Dr Kindermann’s draft report has set the population to 1.7-1.8 million birds, which EFTTA considers to be a very reliable estimate for the summer population. However we are not experts in this field so are looking forward to the discussion on this topic on 4 November at the cormorant conference in Brussels arranged by Kindermann and the Committee of the Regions. It shall be interesting to hear the experts’ views on Kindermann’s figures now we have the counted nests.”

EFTTA lobbyist Jan Kappel attended a meeting at the European  Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries on 7 October, where Mr Carss, INTERCAFE Action Chair gave a speech. Mr Carss informed the Members of the Committee on Fisheries that WI-RSG had given him the information that the Kindermann report’s estimate, 1.7 to 1.8 million birds for the total European cormorant population, is “wrong and considerable overestimates”.

Mr Carss also said: “..there is no simple relationship between the numbers of breeding bird and the numbers in winter, and winter estimates almost never take into account mortality at this time of year (which can be high). So, best scientific estimates suggests the figures quoted in the draft report are a considerable overestimate and do not take into account the complex ecology of the birds.”

M. Bel argued: “We cannot find any indication in Kindermann’s report that the 1.7 to 1.8 million cormorants should be the winter population and we trust Kindermann has “taken into account the complex ecology of the birds”. So this remark by Mr Carss might have to be deemed inappropriate. Mr Carss will get the chance to explain next week as he will be one of the key note speakers at the cormorant conference on 4 November. By then we will know if Mr Carss has something to apologize for. Also the Wetland International Cormorant Research Group could be up for owing Kindermann an apology for claiming his figures were “wrong and considerable overestimates.”

M. Bel concludes: “In terms of excuses the German BirdLife Partner NABU, Naturschutzbund Deutschland takes the prize with a wild guess on a figure for the total European cormorant population. In a letter dated 1 October circulated to Members of the Committee on Fisheries, they claimed that the total number of birds is “only 500,000” and they claim that they have this figure from the INTERCAFE project.

 “However, the INTERCAFE project has not and is not to produce any population figures. And the final INTERCAFE reports are not to be finalised and published until the end of this year.  Therefore, NABU seems to owe an apology to the misinformed MEPs, the public and INTERCAFE for bringing about this ridiculously low figure of 500,000.”