Invasive birds plague Hungarian waters, angering fishermen

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Hungarian fishermen are up in arms against the earlier than usual invasion of great cormorants, known as proficient hunters that kill as many fish a year as they do.

Ferenc Lévai, head of the Hungarian Fisheries’ Association, told Magyar Nemzet that the invasive bird species can cause irreparable damage to the fish population of a pond in just a few hours.

In the winter period, fish hunker down at the bottom of lakes and rivers and their metabolism slows down considerably. Indigenous fishing birds do not reach those depths, but the sea fisher cormorants do, and in packs. As a result, they injure many more fish than they can actually eat.

Lévai said that in the past few decades cormorants have been overprotected, and as their numbers grew, they extended their habitat considerably from their previous nesting places in Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Poland.

He said in the past few years cormorants caught 3,000 tonnes of fish per year, almost as much as all the country’s fishermen (3,500 tonnes).

The Ministry of Agriculture has for the past few years paid millions of forints to fishermen for ammunition to hunt the birds, but more often than not the result was that the birds moved from natural waters to fisheries. Lévai said only a concerted European effort could provide a solution to the problem.

After years with a hunting ban in place, neighboring Romania passed a bill allowing the hunting of cormorants last November, which have also caused significant damage to the fish populations of the Danube, especially the Danube Delta leading into the Black Sea.

Title image: Great cormorant in Hungary. (MTI/Zsolt Szigetváry)

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