WI Cormorant Research Group Study Cormorant databases - Great cormorant last updated on 02-01-2002

Fish species recognised in the food in Europe


Phalacrocorax carbo
in Europe
a first step towards a European management plan (2. draft)

The National Forest and Nature Agengy, Denmark
The National reference Centre for Nature Management, The Netherlands

Many prey fish species have been recognised in diet studies. Appendix reviews and lists the fish species eaten by Great cormorants in Europe. At least 115 fishes were recognised at the species level in the food of European cormorants. In most areas only a few species are staple food. Table 4 reviews the most important prey species found in diet studies.

Summary of the predominant prey fish of Great cormorants in Europe (modified after Marquiss & Carrs 1994 and Keller & Vordermeier 1994). P = pellet analyses; R = regurgitated food remains; S = analyses of stomachs of shot or drowned birds; V = .
Months Method Prey Reference
Marine sea coast        
SW England X-II S flounder, plaice, dab Steven 1933
E Denmark IV-VII S eel, eelpout, herring, cod Madsen & Spark 1950
E Denmark IX-XII S eel, cod, eelpout Madsen & Spark 1950
W Ireland VIII-XII S pollack, herring Piggins 1959
NE England VI-XI R, S flatfish, gadoids, eel Pearson 1968
E Scotland VI-VII R, P dab, saithe, eelpout Mills 1969
E Scotland VII-XII S flatfish, gadoids, clupeids Rae 1969
Ireland VI R wrasse, eel, flatfish West et al. 1975
W Sweden VI P wrasse (3 sp), cod Härkönen 1988
E Denmark V-IX P dab, eelpout, cod Härkönen 1988
E Finnmark VII P gadoids, capelin Barret et al. 1990
W Norway VII P gadoids Barret et aI. 1990
W Norway IX-X P gadoids Barret et al. 1990
W Russia IV-VIII P gadoids, clupeids Bianki et al. 1993
N Germany VII-IX V eelpout Kieckbusch 1993
The Netherlands VIII P plaice, flounder, sole, dab Van Damme 1994a
The Netherlands VII-VI P flounder, eel, dab, plaice Boudewijm et al. 1994
Helgoland IX-V P bull rout, cod Van Damme 1994b
Denmark II-IX P sea scorpion, dab, eelpout, cod Hald-Mortensen 1994
Denmark III-X P dab, cod, flounder, eelpout Hald-Mortensen 1995
W Ireland V-VII S brown trout, eel Piggins 1959
Scotland ? S flounder, sea trout Mills 1965
NE Scotland IX-VI S flounder, saithe Rae 1969
N Italy X-II P sand smelt, mullet, sea bass Boldreghini et al. 1993
Scotland ? S trout, salmon, flounder Mills 1965
SE Scotland XI-III S grayling, roach, salmonids, flounder McIntosh 1978
N Ireland V S brown trout, salmon Kennedy & Greer 1988
Switzerland X-III P grayling, brown trout Suter 1991 #
Switzerland X-III P roach, chub Suter 1991 #
Austria XII-II P grayling, nase Schratter & Trauttmansdorff 1993
Austria XII-II P roach, bream chub/dace, ruffe, perch Schratter & Trauttmansdorff 1993
Austria XII-II R roach, bream Schratter & Ttrauttmansdorff 1993
Austria XI-II P bullhead, roach, Leuciscus sp., perch Zuna-Rratky & Mann 1994
SW Scotland III-IV S flounder, trout, roach, perch Carss & Marquiss ?
SE Scotland II-IV S grayling, trout Carss & Marquiss ?
N Scotland IV-V S salmon, trout Carss & Marquiss ?
Freshwater lakes and lochs
NW England XI-III S char, perch, brown trout Hartley 1948
The Netherlands III-VII R roach, eel, ruffe, pikeperch, bream Van Dobben 1952
Scotland ? S brown trout, perch, salmon Mills 1965
The Netherlands IV-VII R bream, eel, pikeperch De Boer 1972
Ireland IX-IV P roach, perch MacDonald 1987 ??
The Netherlands IV-VII P ruffe, smelt, rvach Voslamber 1988
N Germany VII-XI P perch Worthmann & Spratte 1990
The Netherlands X-III P ruffe, perch, pikeperch, cyprinids Marteijn & Dirksen 1991
Switzerland X-III P roach, perch Suter 1991
The Netherlands III-VII R roach, bream, eel Veldkamp 1991
NE Poland IV S roach, eel, tench, bream, pike Mellin & Martyniak 1991
NE Poland IV-VII P roach, eel, perch, bream Mellin & Martyniak 1991
Hungary ? R carp, eel Gere & Andrikovics 1992
The Netherlands XI-IV P roach, perch, ruffe, pikeperch Platteeuw et al. 1992
The Netherlands XIII-IX P perch, ruffe, amelt, roaeh Middendorp 1993
The Netherlands I-XII P roach, bream, perch, pikeperch Veldkamp 1994
The Netherlands IV-VII R roach, bream, pikeparch, perch Veldkamp 1994
The Netherlands IV-V P roach, ruffe, perch, smelt Nienhuis 1995
Stocked lochs
Scotland III S rainbow trout Carrs & Marquiss (unpub.)
E Scotland I-III S trout Carrs & Marquiss (unpub.)
Fish farm ponds
S France ? ? carp Im &.Hafner 1984
The Netherlands ? ? carp, graas.carp Moerbeek et al. 1987
Czech Republic III-XI R carp Musil et al. 1995
NE Poland   S, P carp Mellin et al. ?
Fish farm cages
W Scotland IX-III S rainbow trout (escaped) Carss 1993

Compared to the total number of fish species found in the food of cormorants, the number of species thait either by mass or number "really matter" is relatively small.

In freshwater habitats about 24 fish species are important:

Eel, bream, white bream,.barbel Barbus barbus, crucian carp C. carassius, nase Chondostoma nasus, carp Cyprinus carpio, chub Leuciscus cephalus, ide Leuciscus idus, roach, rudd, tench, pike Esox lucius, smelt Osmerus eperlanus, whitefish Coregonus sp., rainbow trout, salmon, brown trout,grayling Thymallus thymallus, burbot Lota lota, three-spined stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus, ruffe, perch, zander and flounder.

The predation on about 12 species interferes or might interfere with human commercial catches:

Eel, carp, whitefish, rainbow trout, salmon, brown trout, grayling, perch, tench, pike, roach, and zander.

In salt water habitats c. 15 fish species are important either by number or by weight:

Eel, herring, capelin Mallotus villosus, cod Gadus morhua, whiting Merlangius merlangus, haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus, three-spined stickleback, bull-rout Myoxocephalus scorpius, sea bass,Viviparous blenny Zoarces viviparus, butterfish Pholis gunellus, black goby, plaice Pleuronectus platessa, dab and flounder.

In Mediterranean salt water habitats the following fisches seem to be important prey for the cormorant: grey mullets Mugilidae (in particular Liza ramada), sand-smelt Atherina sp., sea-bass Dicentrarchus sp. and Labridae.

Interference with human commercial yields might exist amongst:

Eel, cod, sea-bass, dab, flounder, gilthead, mullets.

In marine habitats interactions between human fisheries and the cormorants'fishing might occur only in the coastal zone. In Denmark, where, sinensis predominantly feeds in marine habitats, the cormorants catch of the commercially valuable dab reaches up to 50% of the human catch in the same area. However. the cormorants catch consists of far smaller fish than the human catch. In general; compared to human catches, cormorants at sea take only insignificant quantities of commercially important fish species.

In the Mediterranean salt water interference with human yields may exist with regard to mullets and Dicentrarchus. in artificial lagoons interference with commercial production might exist with regard to eel, mullets, sea bass and gilt-head (Génard et al. 1993).