[House Report 115-994]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

115th Congress      }                                         {    Report
                            HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session         }                                         {   115-994


                          CORMORANT RELIEF ACT


October 23, 2018.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed


Mr. Bishop of Utah, from the Committee on Natural Resources, submitted 
                             the following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 6302]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Natural Resources, to whom was referred 
the bill (H.R. 6302) to enact as law certain regulations 
relating to the taking of double-crested cormorants, having 
considered the same, report favorably thereon with an amendment 
and recommend that the bill as amended do pass.
    The amendment is as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 


  This Act may be cited as the ``Cormorant Relief Act''.


  (a) Force and Effect.--
          (1) In general.--Subject to subsection (b), sections 21.47 
        and 21.48 of title 50, Code of Federal Regulations (as in 
        effect on January 1, 2016), shall have the force and effect of 
          (2) Public notice.--The Secretary of the Interior (referred 
        to in this section as the ``Secretary''), acting through the 
        Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service 
        (referred to in this section as the ``Director''), shall notify 
        the public of the authority provided by paragraph (1) in a 
        manner determined to be appropriate by the Secretary.
  (b) Sunset.--The authority provided by subsection (a)(1) shall 
terminate on the effective date of a regulation promulgated by the 
Director after the date of enactment of this Act to control depredation 
of double-crested cormorant populations.
  (c) Rule of Construction.--Nothing in this section limits the 
authority of the Director to promulgate regulations relating to the 
taking of double-crested cormorants under any other law.

                          PURPOSE OF THE BILL

    The purpose of H.R. 6302 is to enact as law certain 
regulations relating to the taking of double-crested 


    Double-crested cormorants are large, matte-black migratory 
fishing birds that are abundant across the entire United States 
and North America. There are five geographically distinct 
breeding populations located across the country. The largest 
population resides in the Mississippi flyway, which includes 
the Great Lakes region.\1\ During breeding season, cormorants 
inhabit lakes, ponds, slow-moving rivers, lagoons, estuaries, 
and open coastline. Outside of breeding season, their habitat 
includes a variety of areas such as marine islands or coastal 
bays.\2\ Cormorants are excellent divers and are naturally 
adapted to foraging for fish under water, which has 
historically placed the bird in direct conflict with 
aquaculture, subsistence and recreational fishing, and 
endangered species in certain parts of the country.
    \1\Legislative Hearing on H.R. 2591, H.R. 4429, H.R. 4609, 
H.R.4647, H.R. 4851, Before the H. Comm. on Natural Resources, Subcomm. 
on Federal Lands, 115th Cong., 115-37, (2018) (statement of Randall 
Claramunt, Michigan Dep't of Natural Resources), available at https://
naturalresources.house.gov/uploadedfiles/testimony_claramunt.pdf, at 2.
    \2\Sullivan et. al., Cornell University: The Double-Crested 
Cormorant, Issues and Management, Cornell University Cooperative 
Extension 8-14, (2006), available at http://wildlifecontrol.info/wp-
    Like many other migratory birds, the double-crested 
cormorant is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 
(MBTA, 16 U.S.C. 703 et seq.), which prohibits any take (the 
killing, capture, selling, trading, or transport, etc.) of any 
protected species without prior authorization by the U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Impact of the Cormorant

    In Michigan, the cormorant population grew to nearly 90,000 
birds in 2007 from 5000 breeding pairs in 1989,\3\ and the 
overall population in central and eastern United States and 
Canada is estimated to be between 731,880 and 752,516.\4\ This 
enormous population growth causes many detrimental effects for 
States that host these large populations of cormorants. 
Fisheries, aquaculture, wildlife habitat, and endangered 
species in these areas often see the greatest negative impact.
    \3\U.S. Dep't of Ag., U.S. Dep't of the Interior: Final 
Environmental Assessment: Double-Crested Cormorant Damage Management in 
Michigan, (2011), available at https://www.fws.gov/midwest/MidwestBird/
    \4\U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Environmental Assessment for 
Issuing Depredation Permits for Double-Crested Cormorant Management, 
(2017), available at https://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/pdf/management/
    Fisheries: In Michigan, recreational and commercial fishing 
is an economically significant industry valued between $4 
billion and $7 billion annually.\5\ According to FWS, ``Double-
crested cormorant populations can decrease fish populations in 
open waters and in aquaculture facilities.''\6\ Studies show 
that cormorant predation can significantly impact local 
economies relying on recreational fishing and related tourism. 
Over a 20-year period, millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs 
have been lost in these areas due to a decline in the fisheries 
population.\7\ Studies conducted in Michigan show that 
cormorants have the potential to influence sport fishing 
populations, causing significant declines in fisheries.\8\ 
Declines in these sport fisheries in turn raise serious 
concerns for the local economies dependent on recreational 
fisheries for economic stability.
    \5\Michigan Sea Grant, Fisheries, http://www.miseagrant.umich.edu/
explore/fisheries/, (last visited June 5, 2018).
    \6\Migratory Bird Permits; Revision of Expiration Dates for Double-
Crested Cormorant Depredation Orders, Fish and Wildlife Service, 74 
Fed. Reg. 64, 15394-15398 (proposed Apr. 6, 2009) available at https://
    \7\Travis L. DeVault, Katy N. Kirkpatrick, Stephanie Shwiff, et. 
al., Modeling the Economic Impacts of Double-Crested Cormorant Damage 
to a Recreational Fishery, The Berryman Institute Human-Wildlife 
Interactions 36-47 (2015), available at http://
    \8\Brian Dorr, Shauna L. Hanish, Peter H. Butchko, et al., 
Management of Double-Crested Cormorants to Improve Sport Fisheries in 
Michigan: Three Case Studies, The Berryman Institute Human-Wildlife 
Interactions 155-168 (2012), available at https://
see also Iyob Tsehaye, Michael L. Jones, Brian J. Irwin, et. al., A 
Predictive Model To Inform Adaptive Management of Double-Crested 
Cormorants and Fisheries in Michigan, 28 Natural Resource Modeling 348-
376 (Aug. 2015), available at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/
    Studies, including those conducted by the Michigan 
Department of Natural Resources, have illustrated the link 
between cormorant management efforts and the recovery of 
fishery populations in Michigan.\9\ For instance, one study 
analyzed over 20 years of fishery data in Lake Ontario and 
found cormorant predation was associated with a decrease of 
smallmouth bass populations, which contributed to a major 
decline in the bass fishery in both quality and abundance.\10\ 
In another example, the New York Department of Environmental 
Conservation found declines in populations of smallmouth bass, 
yellow perch, and other warm-water fisheries in the eastern 
basin of Lake Ontario in the 1990s, which correlated with a 
boom in the cormorant population.\11\
    \9\Dorr, supra, note 11; see also: David F. Fielder, Response of 
Yellow Perch in Les Cheneaux Islands, Lake Huron to Declining Numbers 
of Double-Crested Cormorants Stemming from Control Activities, 36 
Journal of Great Lakes Research 207-214 (June, 2010), available at 
    \10\B.F. Lantry, T.H. Eckert, & C.P. Schneider, The Relationship 
Between the Abundance of Smallmouth Bass and Double-Crested Cormorants 
in the Eastern Basin of Lake Ontario, NY Dep't of Environmental 
Conservation (Feb. 1, 1999), available at http://cescos.fau.edu/
    \11\NY Dep't of Environmental Conservation, 2015 Annual Report: 
Bureau of Fisheries Lake Ontario Unit and St. Lawrence River Unit to 
the Great Lakes Fishery Commission's Lake Ontario Committee, (Mar., 
2016), available at https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/fish_marine_pdf/
lorpt15.pdf, at 126.
    Aquaculture: Like fisheries, the aquaculture industry can 
be significantly impacted by cormorant predation. Economic 
losses have ranged from $5 million to $25 million in the 
Mississippi catfish aquaculture industry alone.\12\ Fish 
farmers are particularly vulnerable because of the cormorant's 
predatory tactics, which allows them to ``work as a group to 
herd fish into an easily catchable mass.''\13\ For these 
farmers, non-lethal methods, such as air-cannons and boots-on-
the-ground harassment, have not proven effective in deterring 
cormorants.\14\ In the Southeast region, aquaculture farms have 
struggled to combat cormorant predation, allowing the 
population to increase drastically. Because of ineffective non-
lethal methods and a ballooning population in the region, FWS 
allows aquaculture farmers to obtain permission to protect 
their farms from the cormorant through lethal take.\15\
    \12\Sullivan,), supra note 2.
    \13\David Bennett, As cormorants begin to descend, Southern 
aquaculture in a bind, Delta Farm Press, Dec. 13, 2016, available at 
    \15\U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Reports and Publications: Double-
Crested Cormorants, https://www.fws.gov/birds/management/managed-
species/double-crested-cormorants.php, (last visited June 5, 2018).
    Habitat Degradation and Other Bird Species: Double-crested 
cormorants have a significant impact on the areas in which they 
breed and roost. Large numbers of cormorants degrade 
vegetation, resulting in destruction of habitat for other 
native bird species.\16\ Their acidic guano alters soil 
chemistry, irreversibly damaging trees and ground 
vegetation.\17\\18\ This change in habitat affects other 
colonial water birds, as well as a variety of other species 
that compete with the cormorant for nesting habitat.\19\ 
Furthermore, destruction of tree populations and altered soil 
chemistry also have the potential to lead to increased pest 
invasion and have long-lasting negative impacts on the 
biodiversity and stability of local ecosystems.\20\ In its 2011 
environmental assessment evaluating cormorant management 
practices, FWS found that reducing cormorant populations would 
be beneficial to other species and vegetation currently 
negatively impacted by the cormorant.\21\
    \16\Sullivan, supra note 2 at 15-16.
    \17\ Id.
    \18\Bryan Watts, Chesapeake Bay Cormorants Continue Steep Ascent, 
The Center for Conservation Biology (Dec. 3, 2013), http://
ascent/, (last visited June 5, 2018).
    \20\Piotr Klimaszyk & Piotr Rzymski, The complexity of ecological 
impacts induced by great cormorants, 771 Hydrobiologia 13-30 (May 
2016), available at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10750-
    \21\U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service supra note 7 at 41.
    Endangered Species: Federal protections for predatory birds 
under the MBTA have also been found to inhibit recovery of 
Endangered Species Act (ESA, 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) protected 
fish species. Cormorants prey upon millions of ESA-listed 
salmon smolts in the Columbia River watershed. According to the 
Army Corps of Engineers, predation on juvenile salmonids as 
they make their migration to the Pacific Ocean by these birds 
is a limiting factor in the species' recovery under the 
ESA.\22\ The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
estimates that cormorants eat an average of 12 million juvenile 
salmonids annually, many of which are ESA-listed.\23\ The Corps 
attempts to control this predation through population reduction 
efforts through special federal permits issued by FWS.\24\ In 
2015, the Corps applied for a permit to lethally take well over 
half of the breeding pairs of cormorants that reside on East 
Sand Island.\25\ Third party litigants have threatened to stop 
these efforts as well.\26\
    \22\U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Benefits to Columbia River 
Anadromous Salmonids from Potential Reductions in Avian Predation on 
the Columbia River, Donald Lyons et all, September 7, 2011.
    \23\Northwest Fishletter #351, November 2, 2015.
    \24\Final EIS: Double-chested Cormorant Management Plan to Reduce 
Predation of Juvenile Salmonids in the Columbia River Estuary. U. S. 
Army Corps of Engineers, February 6, 2015.
    \25\Final EIS: Double-chested Cormorant Management Plan to Reduce 
Predation of Juvenile Salmonids in the Columbia River Estuary. U. S. 
Army Corps of Engineers, February 6, 2015.
    \26\Northwest Fishletter #344, April 3, 2015.

Cormorant Management Efforts

    While cormorants are protected as migratory birds under the 
MBTA, FWS allows for individuals, private organizations, and 
other federal and State agencies to control and manage 
cormorants through a depredation permit or depredation 
order.\27\ Management of cormorants can include non-lethal 
methods, such as harassment techniques, habitat modification, 
or fisheries management.\28\ Lethal methods usually involve egg 
or nest destruction and shooting.\29\ Depredation permits are 
provided on a case-by-case basis for the lethal control of 
problem birds, while depredation orders establish conditions 
under which specific entities or individuals can take a covered 
species without obtaining an individual depredation permit.\30\ 
Both processes require compliance with the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), 
including public comment, and are subject to judicial review.
    \27\U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Double-Crested Cormorants https:/
/www.fws.gov/southeast/faq/double-crested-cormorants/, (last visited 
June 5, 2018).
    \28\Sullivan, supra note 2, at 20.
    \29\Sullivan, supra note 2, at 23.
    \30\U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, supra note 29.
    In response to the increased concern from the aquaculture 
industry, natural resources professionals, recreational 
fishermen, and others, FWS issued an Aquatic Depredation Order 
in 1998 that allowed for State management of cormorants to 
protect the aquaculture industry in 13 southern States.\31\ In 
2003, FWS expanded this order and established a Public Resource 
Depredation Order (PRDO) for State-level management to benefit 
free-swimming fishes in 24 northern States.\32\ Both 
depredation orders were subsequently extended in 2009 and 
    \31\U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Double-Crested Cormorant 
Management: Current Status, https://www.fws.gov/midwest/news/documents/
Cormorants.pdf, (last visited June 5, 2018).
    \32\H. Comm. on Natural Resources, Subcomm. on Federal Lands, supra 
note 1, at 5.
    \33\Fish and Wildlife Service supra, note 3; See also: Migratory 
Bird Permits; Revision of Expiration Dates for Double-Crested Cormorant 
Depredation Orders, 79 Fed. Reg. 102, (30474) (May 28, 2014), available 
at https://www.fws.gov/policy/library/2014/2014-12318.pdf.
    In May 2016, pursuant to a lawsuit brought by Public 
Employees for Environmental Responsibility against FWS, the 
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia remanded FWS' 
2014 NEPA environmental review and vacated the two depredation 
orders for double-crested cormorants.\34\ The court concluded 
that FWS did not take a ``hard look'' at the effects of the 
depredation orders on cormorant populations and other affected 
resources and failed to consider a reasonable range of 
alternatives required under NEPA.\35\
    \34\Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, et al. v. 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, No. 14-1807 (D.D.C. 2016).
    In November 2017, FWS released a supplementary 
environmental assessment (EA) with a finding of no significant 
impact, allowing for the issuance of individual permits for 
annual take, including lethal removal, of up to 51,571 
cormorants in 37 central and eastern States and the District of 
Columbia.\36\ The scope of the EA allows for permits to be 
issued to protect aquaculture facilities, human and health and 
safety, threatened and endangered species, and alleviate damage 
to property.\37\ Despite the reissuance of permits, cormorant 
populations remain abundant and the reissued EA does not allow 
for permits to protect free swimming or recreational fish 
against cormorants, leaving individuals and State management 
agencies in the Great Lakes region with few options to 
effectively manage the species.
15, 2017), available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/

Solutions for Effective Cormorant Management in the Great Lakes Region

    In June 2018, in response to cormorants' negative impacts 
on species and habitat and bureaucratic hurdles to proper 
cormorant management, the Natural Resources Committee held a 
field hearing in Alpena, Michigan, to examine the impacts that 
cormorants have on wild fish populations and commercial and 
recreational fishing. Witnesses representing the State of 
Michigan, local business and a local conservationist testified 
on the FWS's failure to incorporate a large body of non-federal 
data into its environmental reviews and the general challenges 
that uncontrolled cormorant populations create for the local 
ecosystem and communities. Mr. Randall Claramunt, testifying on 
behalf of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, cited 
the success of cormorant management in the Les Cheneaux Islands 
in rebuilding the yellow perch fishery. Studies show that the 
collapse of the yellow perch fishery related to cormorant 
predation cost two local communities $5.3 million annually.\38\ 
Mr. Claramunt stated that, in the Les Cheneaux region, 
``[w]ithin nine years, cormorant abundance was reduced and 
sustained at agreed upon target levels in balance with the 
ecosystem . . . Game fish populations began to rebound and the 
local economy began to recover less than ten years after the 
PRDO.''\39\ At this hearing, Mr. Tom Cooper from FWS reiterated 
the Department of the Interior's support for ``reinstating 
methods to lethally control problem birds'' and emphasis on 
collaboration with local stakeholders.\40\ Although Mr. 
Claramunt expressed optimism over recent commitments by FWS, he 
stated ``[i]t is unclear as to the intent to not include the 
vast amount of information from non-federal governments as to 
the impacts of uncontrolled cormorant populations on fish 
populations and the communities that they support.''\41\
    \38\Ridgeway, M. S., and D. G. Fielder. 2013, Double-Crested 
Cormorants in the Laurentian Great Lakes: Issues and Ecosystems. Pages 
733-764 In Great Lakes Fisheries Policy and Management, second edition, 
W. W. Taylor, A. J. Lynch and N. J. Leonard. editors. Michigan State 
University Press, East Lansing.
    \39\Legislative Hearing on ``Examining the Effects of Mismanagement 
of the Cormorant in the Great Lakes Region'', Before the H. Comm. on 
Natural Resources, 115th Cong., 2, (2018) (Statement of Mr. Randall 
Claramunt, at 6), available at https://naturalresources.house.gov/
    \40\Legislative Hearing on ``Examining the Effects of Mismanagement 
of the Cormorant in the Great Lakes Region'', Before the H. Comm. on 
Natural Resources, 115th Cong., 2, (2018) (Statement of Mr. Tom Cooper, 
at 2), available at https://naturalresources.house.gov/uploadedfiles/
    \41\Legislative Hearing on ``Examining the Effects of Mismanagement 
of the Cormorant in the Great Lakes Region'', Before the H. Comm. on 
Natural Resources, 115th Cong., 2, (2018) (Statement of Mr. Randall 
Claramunt, at 8), available at https://naturalresources.house.gov/
    As a result of this hearing, Congressman Bergman introduced 
H.R. 6302. The bill temporarily reinstates depredation orders 
vacated by the 2016 District Court ruling, providing for 
continued management of cormorants by State fish and game 
agencies, as well as private aquaculture organizations.\42\ 
H.R. 6302 reflects language in S. 2663, sponsored by Senator 
John Barrasso (R-WY).\43\ This legislation would temporarily 
reimplement the original PRDO until FWS reissues regulations to 
control depredation of double-crested cormorant populations.
    \42\Legislative Hearing on H.R.2591, H.R.4429, H.R. 4609, H.R.4647, 
H.R. 4851, Before the H. Comm. on Natural Resources, Subcomm. on 
Federal Lands, 115th Cong., 115-37, (2018) (Legislative Hearing Memo on 
H.R. 4429), available at https://naturalresources.house.gov/
    \43\ACRE Act, S. 2663, Sec. 9, 115th Cong., (2018), available at 

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    H.R. 6302 was introduced on July 3, 2018, by Congressman 
Jack Bergman (R-MI). The bill was referred to the Committee on 
Natural Resources. On February 15, 2018, the Subcommittee on 
Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing on a similar legislation 
(H.R. 4429). On July 11, 2018, the Natural Resources Committee 
met to consider the bill. Congressman Bergman offered an 
amendment designated #1; it was adopted by voice vote. No 
further amendments were offered, and the bill, as amended, was 
ordered favorably reported to the House of Representatives by a 
roll call vote of 19 yeas and 13 nays as follows:


    Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the 
Committee on Natural Resources' oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the body of this report.


     1. Cost of Legislation and the Congressional Budget Act. 
With respect to the requirements of clause 3(c)(2) and (3) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and 
sections 308(a) and 402 of the Congressional Budget Act of 
1974, the Committee has received the following estimate for the 
bill from the Director of the Congressional Budget Office:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                     Washington, DC, July 25, 2018.
Hon. Rob Bishop,
Chairman, Committee on Natural Resources,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 6302, the 
Cormorant Relief Act.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Jeff LaFave.
                                                Keith Hall,

H.R. 6302--Cormorant Relief Act

    H.R. 6302 would temporarily reinstate two depredation 
orders that allow people to take double-crested cormorants 
without a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
(USFWS). (Take has many meanings, including to kill, capture, 
sell, or transport cormorants.) Those orders would terminate 
once the agency issued regulations to control cormorant 
populations. At that time, cormorant hunters would again need 
to obtain permits.
    Under current law, a permit to take cormorants, which costs 
$100, generally allows one person to take between 20 and 150 
cormorants. CBO estimates that the nationwide limit, which is 
set by USFWS, will be about 50,000 birds annually and that 
those fees total about $300,000 each year. Those fees are 
recorded as reductions in direct spending and USFWS has 
authority to spend those amounts without further appropriation 
action. Under the bill, those fees would not be collected while 
the two depredation orders were in effect.
    Because enacting H.R. 6302 would reduce offsetting receipts 
and the associated direct spending from fees for permits that 
allow for the taking of cormorants, pay-as-you-go procedures 
apply. However, CBO estimates that the net effect on direct 
spending would be negligible. Enacting the bill would not 
affect revenues.
    CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 6302 would not 
significantly increase net direct spending or on-budget 
deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods 
beginning in 2029.
    H.R. 6302 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Jeff LaFave. The 
estimate was reviewed by H. Samuel Papenfuss, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.
    2. General Performance Goals and Objectives. As required by 
clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII, the general performance goal or 
objective of this bill is to enact as law certain regulations 
relating to the taking of double-crested cormorants.

                           EARMARK STATEMENT

    This bill does not contain any Congressional earmarks, 
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined 
under clause 9(e), 9(f), and 9(g) of rule XXI of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4

    This bill contains no unfunded mandates.

                       COMPLIANCE WITH H. RES. 5

    Directed Rule Making. This bill does not contain any 
directed rule makings.
    Duplication of Existing Programs. This bill does not 
establish or reauthorize a program of the federal government 
known to be duplicative of another program. Such program was 
not included in any report from the Government Accountability 
Office to Congress pursuant to section 21 of Public Law 111-139 
or identified in the most recent Catalog of Federal Domestic 
Assistance published pursuant to the Federal Program 
Information Act (Public Law 95-220, as amended by Public Law 
98-169) as relating to other programs.


    This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or 
tribal law.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    If enacted, this bill would make no changes in existing 

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

    H.R. 6302 would enact as law a 2014 U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service (FWS) rule that extended the expiration date for two 
depredation orders--the Aquaculture Depredation Order and the 
Public Resource Depredation Order--which allowed an unlimited 
number of double-crested cormorants to be killed without a 
permit. These depredation orders, which were first promulgated 
in 1998, remove the legal protections cormorants receive under 
the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in an attempt to protect sport 
fisheries and aquaculture. The FWS has extended the orders 
every five years but without monitoring the status of the 
species or considering updated scientific information. In 2016, 
a federal court ruled that the FWS failed to adequately assess 
the environmental impacts of the orders and instructed the 
agency to suspend them until a proper analysis is complete.
    The FWS completed an environmental assessment (EA) for the 
Aquaculture Depredation Order in 2017 and reissued 
individualized cormorant depredation permits to aquaculture 
facilities where there is a significant impact to their 
operations, native vegetation, threatened or endangered 
species, or a significant risk to human safety. Aquaculture 
facility managers and property owners in 37 states and the 
District of Columbia can now apply for these individual permits 
for the lethal take of cormorants. This order represents a 
measured approach and aligns with protections other bird 
species receive under the Migratory Bird Species Act.
    The scope of the aquaculture EA did not include potential 
damage by cormorants to recreational and commercial fishing. 
However, FWS is in the initial phase of conducting an EA and 
gathering scientific data to determine if a new Depredation 
Order should be issued. FWS will engage states, tribes, and 
other stakeholders to assess the biological, social, and 
economic impacts of cormorants on wild fish. The FWS has 
indicated that this process is expected to take approximately 
one year.
    H.R. 6302 circumvents the FWS' ongoing process, ignores the 
best available science, and sets a dangerous precedent for 
wildlife management. Over broad geographic regions, no studies 
to date have demonstrated that cormorants have a consistently 
negative effect on wild fish populations. Before prematurely 
reinstating the depredation order, it is imperative that the 
FWS finalize the EA to better understand the full range of 
environmental impacts and to prevent unnecessary depredation of 
the species.
                                   Raul M. Grijalva,
                                           Ranking Member, Committee on 
                                               Natural Resources.