Federally Protected Bird Impacting Zapata's Fishing Population

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ZAPATA – On Falcon Lake, the cormorant is sacred. The migratory bird faces few predators and is protected against harm by federal law.

But to anglers, the birds are eating up too many fish. They're now signing on to a petition for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to respond to the problem.

"There's no pressure on them," said James Bendele, from his store Falcon Lake and Tackle in Zapata. "When conditions are good, they can have two or three or sometimes even four babies."

The cormorant feeds off baby bass in the lake, said Bendele. The bass attracts tourism and is considered a valuable resource to locals.

"Easy pickings for the cormorants," said Bendele.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a response. They said it's involved in a lawsuit over how population control permits are issued.

The agency is working on a long-term evaluation to see if the agency can eradicate some cormorants without hurting the environment, said an official.

Several cormorant species are protected by the Migratory Bird Act of 1918. The act enforces treaties with Mexico, Canada, Russia and Japan, and protects approximately 800 species of bird.

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