Effects of Great Cormorant Predation on Fish Populations and Fishery

Sammanfattning: The strong increase in number of Great cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo in Sweden in recent years has led to conflicts - particularly with fishery. This thesis focuses on the possible effects of cormorant predation on fish populations. In total, data from 15 lakes in South Sweden were included in this study while most studies were carried out in Lake Ymsen. The results suggest that the impact of cormorant predation on natural fish populations was small, and I observed no decline in fish mass after cormorants established. Cormorant predation on eel was difficult to evaluate because of several confounding factors.Ruffe, roach and perch were the most important prey species to the cormorants and most fish taken were small. Cormorants do not seem to catch species and sizes in proportion to their occurrence in the fish community.Total fish removal by cormorants varied considerably among lakes (0.2-15.0 kg/ha) and cormorant population sizes at the different lakes were significantly positively correlated with fishery catches, which in turn was significantly positively correlated with total phosphorous levels. Thus, cormorant densities in lakes, and perhaps elsewhere, seem to be governed chiefly by fish densities. The fact that cormorant predation appears not to reduce fish densities suggest cormorants to be regulated by other means than prey depletion. The mechanism behind population regulation could be a behavioural response of fish, making fish more difficult to catch for the cormorants.In recent years, cormorant populations have been subjected to intensive legal and illegal actions with the aim to reduce cormorant numbers. However, the actions currently carried are well below the efforts needed to limit population sizes. To conclude, cormorants appear to compete little with fishery, with regards to free-living fish. The main problem is that cormorants sometimes damage and take away fish in fishing gears.