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Blame us, instead

Dear sir,

Yet another letter, this time by Mr. R. Garbowski (Aug. 23, 2000), suggests that cormorants are depleting game fish in local lakes and hints at the issue of predator control.

Let’s get a firm grip on the ecological reality of having more than six billion people inhabiting this planet. Mr. Garbowski states a concern about “an ecological upset in the balance of numbers towards possibly undesirable species.” The only species that I’ve seen lately that depletes fish stocks are human.

The Earth’s carrying capacity of people living at Western society levels of energy and resource consumption is estimated to be no more than one billion. The current world population in more than six billion and rising rapidly.

It is a pretty sad moment when we cannot recognize the impact of the world’s population explosion and shift blame instead to innocent wildlife.

Get real. The number-one depleter of fish stocks is human and always has been. A few examples are educational, in case we have forgotten. When Europeans first came to the Atlantic coast of North America, the cod fishing was beyond their wildest dreams (having no doubt already fished down the eastern Atlantic).

Nobody thought there could be an end to such abundance. But, of course, there was. After years of fishing, there is a tiny remnant of cod left. It no longer matters if the fault was fishermen, consumers, or government regulators but it is crystal clear the cause was human.

But in a pathetic attempt to protect their fishery, some Maritimers blame seals as a major predator of cod and something that needs to be controlled. Sorry, but seals vs. cod were not an issue until humans overfished the cod stocks.

How about our ruined west coast fishery? Some out there blame influxes of mackerel eating smolt salmon. This has only been a factor in El Nino years, which have occurred through recorded history as a natural phenomenon.

Others blame the logging industry for destroying the spawning streams. This certainly is true. Just take a trip out west to look at some mountainside clear cuts. It makes me sick to hear on our local radio how Weyerhaeuser Corp. is so “nice and friendly to fish and their routes to spawning.”

It is possible that they might be now but in the past, Weyerhaeuser, Mac-Blo, hydro-electric projects, and others have destroyed critical numbers of salmon spawning grounds until government regulation forced them to act responsibly.

Meanwhile, commercial fishermen have hammered salmon for years for their undeniably tasty meat.

And the point is? Human activity does more to destroy fish stock than any “natural predator.”

How about Ontario? There used to be huge numbers of natural Atlantic salmon in Lake Ontario. It does not really matter whether it was damming the spawning streams, over-fishing, or sea lampreys arriving through the St. Lawrence Seaway that killed them off. The bottom line is that human activities led to their extinction.

I could go on about severe depletion of swordfish, tuna, sharks, lobster, ruffe, shrimp, whales, coral reefs, sea bass, etc. But the point is, all aquatic species in the world that are imperiled or endangered are being harmed exclusively by human activity.

So what makes anyone think that we are unique and that people are not the sole source of fish depletion in Northwestern Ontario? You only need to take a trip to Nestor Falls in the winter to see huge “hut villages” complete with fishermen slaughtering their limits of crappies.

How about Redgut Bay, any time of year, to see vast numbers of boats of locals and Americans hammering the fish. How about the Manitou in the spring with up to 80 boats per day (average three fishermen per boat) taking home, therefore, 480 large trout per day out of an infertile headwater lake.

And that doesn’t even take into account the four tourist camps on that water system.

Rainy River in April? Seine River in May? Examples like these seem endless.

No one would dispute that there were many more game fish in the local lakes before Europeans arrived. So why were there not large numbers of cormorants at that time? Anyone who is truly concerned about these birds should ask themselves why they were not here in large numbers before tourists, commercial fishermen, and local resident (non-aboriginal) fishermen started to depopulate the lakes?

The fact is that these birds have always been here but only recently, as people have depleted the lakes of game fish, have the birds increased their numbers. It is clear that as there are less game fish, there will be more bait fish (including smelt) for opportunistic predators like cormorants.

MNR studies already have proven that baitfish are their main diet. It is only natural.

We need to look at our own activities first and foremost before we waste time on a bystander predator (cormorants) that is only making the best of an opportunity created by the greedy over-fishing of humans.

Bottom line: a world population of more than six billion does far more damage to all the world’s fisheries than any numbers of seals, mackerel, cormorants, etc. It is people who need to be controlled, not innocent wildlife.

Yours sincerely,

John Nelson

Fort Frances, Ont.

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