TILLAMOOK, Ore. — The term "hazing" generally appears in the context of bizarre fraternity or sorority initiation rituals. It's only slightly less bizarre to encounter the word in the context used by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW); in their case it means the systematic harassment of birds.
The double-crested cormorant is an expert fisher-bird—looking not unlike some dark, sleek, prehistoric pteranodon—often found perched on wood pilings, rocky jetties, or lining the shore of some waterway, closely watching the water for signs of their slippery prey.
Because cormorants are such relentless seekers of fresh fish, the ODFW are struggling to keep the state's young salmon population safe.
Cormorants are especially populous in Oregon's estuaries from April through October, according to the ODFW. However, this is a vital time for juvenile salmon as they migrate to the ocean.
When hazing, ODFW workers and non-profit volunteers work to drive cormorants from areas where juvenile salmon are concentrated to areas where other, more common types of fish gather. The ODFW employ small boats and benign pyrotechnics to harass the fisher-birds.
Some species of spring-migrating salmon—such as the coho salmon—are federally considered threatened in Oregon under the Endangered Species Act.
The ODFW will have support in these hazing rituals from Clatsop County Fisheries Project, Port of Nehalem, Port of Bandon, North Coast Salmon and Steelhead Enhancement Fund, and Alsea Sportsmen's Association. ODFW provides portions of the funding, program oversight, and conducts some of the hazing operations itself—however, they rely heavily on these other organizations.
Hazing is expected to continue through May 31 on the Nehalem, Nestucca, and Coquille river estuaries, as well as the Tillamook and Alsea bays. The program will continue through at least July 31 on the lower Columbia River, where hazing will occur at a variety of locations, including Young’s Bay, Blind Slough, and Tongue Point.
ODFW has coordinated the cormorant hazing project for the last 9 years, although cormorant hazing in some form has occurred at some Oregon estuaries intermittently since 1988.