Field & Game Australia

Birds of a feather?

A recent Twitter exchange shows Birdlife Australia (BA) at odds with hunters but the reality is, while the reasons are different, we really want the same thing: facts and data.

Here’s the exchange with BA CEO Paul Sullivan the night the Victorian duck season was announced.

The exchange continued with Mr Sullivan directing us to BA policy on waterfowl hunting. Essentially, the original 1988 policy supported duck hunting conditional on the following outcomes:

  • An annual Australia-wide survey on the timing, duration, distribution and success of waterfowl breeding events, definition of hunter impact and setting of biologically meaningful season specifications.

  • Better hunter education to protect non-game species and periodic closures.

  • A ban on lead shot.

  • A vigorous program to increases the area of biologically productive wetlands in Australia and wetland research, management and conservation programs adequately funded from hunting fees, supplemented by consolidated revenue.

Our colleagues at the Australian Deer Association were quick to point out how well we’ve done.

It was all for naught. In 1994 BA reviewed the policy and considered its ‘conditions’ had not been met; it withdrew support for waterfowl hunting.

Which bring us to the organisation’s submission to the Game Management Authority on the 2017 Victorian duck season.

It is no surprise that BA opposed a duck season but within the reasoning is this statement: “BirdLife Australia would support a move to increase monitoring of waterbird populations and the development of a sustainable harvest model of Victorian waterfowl as outlined in Ramsey et al (2010). In the absence of a comprehensive structured monitoring program, Victoria continues to rely on a largely subjective approach to duck harvesting.”

At least we agree on something.

Animals Australia and RSPCA (Vic) made much of the low game duck abundance index in submissions but BA at least recognised the gaps in the survey model.

“While the increase in the total wetland area index may mean that ducks are highly dispersed, and this may account for some of the decline in duck abundance, the decision on whether to allow a duck season in 2017 should be based on available information, not speculation.“

Again, we agree on something: we need facts and data.

There is a bit of cherry picking of supportive data in the submissions and we disagree with BA that a “ …more sophisticated analysis of data from the EAAWS” is needed.

It is time to admit the whole model is flawed and we need new monitoring and modelling that is designed specifically for the purpose of managing dynamic and nomadic wild duck populations.

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