One cormorant eats 400-600 grams fish every day, and two million European cormorants need about 365,000 tonnes of fish every year. This is about 10% of the total landings of wild catch in the EU, and about the combined EU’s annual production of salmonids and freshwater fish.
Like most birds, a cormorant eats its weight in food every day. Unlike most birds, the cormorant’s preferred food is the same fish species that are harvested by Estonian and other Baltic fishermen, species whose populations are already in decline from multiple causes without the added pressure from hungry cormorants. Estonia’s cormorant population is growing, despite an annual hunting season. According to the Department of the Environment, there are more than 34,000 pairs of this bird nesting in the country. At around 3 kg per bird, eating at least their weight in fish each day, 34,000 pairs of birds mean a loss in fish biomass of around 204 tonnes per day, or nearly 75,000 tonnes per year. The department, led by Rainer Vakra, has agreed to allow fishers two measures to reduce their losses: one is oil spraying of cormorant eggs, which prevents the eggs from hatching; the other is the use of noise devices and lasers, which scares the birds away. Vakra added that in a few months the department will approve a multi-year action plan to address this problem that is upsetting the Baltic ecosystem in addition to fishermen’s wallets.