Opinion

Something must change

In late January, the Victorian 2016 Duck Season was announced.

With Victorian legislation setting out the season opening and closing date, duration and daily bag limits, it’s difficult to understand why it needs to be “announced” in the first place.

Tasmania set their game bird season late last year, with no changes to the conditions from 2015 and very little fanfare — game bird hunting is seen as “business as usual”.

FGA would welcome this sensible approach as there’s no evidence that any different method is necessary to preserve the longterm sustainability of our native waterfowl populations.

The Victorian announcement completes the trifecta of game bird hunting seasons in south-eastern Australia. The Northern Territory sets their season later in the year.

As expected, the resulting media is all opposition to duck hunting, yet ducks are not the only wild game birds hunted in Australia. Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania all have quail seasons (with differing game species) — but not a peep about the quail season in amongst the
annual barrage of polls, letters and protests.

The different processes across the states, along with the unbalanced reporting, raises questions. Is there a better approach to take? Are the waterfowl surveys relied on by government enough to justify a change in conditions? Does reducing the bag limit or season length help manage and maintain waterfowl populations?

Evidence of low waterfowl populations, reduced breeding activity and reductions in habitat area have been quoted to justify a cancellation of the 2016 season, but these low populations, reduced breeding and habitat were surveyed within a defined area. What if there’s a waterfowl population boom happening just outside the surveyed area and there’s better wetland habitat
elsewhere?

Our waterfowl are nomadic in nature, unlike Northern Hemisphere waterfowl who have very predictable migration habits.

Our waterfowl also don’t care much for imaginary lines marking state borders or survey flight paths. What’s a duck to do? They go where the water is!

Modifying bag limits and season duration has the effect of interfering with accurate data collection. To properly measure the legislated season parameters, then a state has to actively enforce the legislated season parameters, and not modify them year after year.

Modifying hunting seasons and the delay in announcing these changes creates another series of significant impacts, this time on retailers, businesses and regional communities. With the announcement of the Victorian waterfowl season taking place barely eight weeks from the opening weekend, the delay has already affected importers, distributors and wholesalers in
the hunting industry.

With hunting in Victoria worth $439 million in 2013 — that’s almost 3 500 full-time jobs — uncertainty around a major event in the hunting calendar is akin to the effect on retailers from cancelling Christmas.

What business could endure that level of uncertainty?

On top of that, regional South Australia will miss out on the revenue from a large contingent of visiting Victorian hunters because for the first time in living memory
the seasons in both states will start on the same day.

FGA’s submission to the Victorian Game Management Authority highlights key areas including the economic benefits and business confidence from the timely setting of seasons, conservation, long-term sustainability of hunting and simplification.

FGA has identified that the current approach for setting waterfowl hunting seasons in Victoria is based either on irrelevant or incomplete facts and data or emotion and intuition — or both.

One consequence of this is the completely avoidable constant variation in seasons, which makes it impossible to collect comparable data from season to season.

This is why FGA recommended that the legislated season take place, free from modification, for the next five years: to achieve a long-running data set to help measure and manage waterfowl populations; to gather harvest information to assess the sustainability of hunting in Victoria; and to illustrate the error in constant modification based on emotive reasoning and limited evidence.

Something must change.

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