Judge: Sanctioned slaughter of fish-eating birds broke law

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted improperly when it allowed tens of thousands of migratory aquatic birds to be shot each year to protect fish populations.

According to the ruling, the agency violated the National Environmental Policy Act by permitting up to 160,000 double-crested cormorants to be killed each year in 24 states east of the Mississippi River.

The birds feed on fish, including catfish at fish farms and species popular with recreational fishermen.

The advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility sued the government to stop the practice, which is known as “lethal removal.”

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, in his ruling Tuesday, said the agency failed to adequately consider nonlethal consequences or the long-range environmental effects of shooting the birds.