During the annual Victorian duck shooting season, thousands of ‘game’ ducks are shot on our wetlands along with rare and threatened ducks and many other types of birds including protected species.
Up to one quarter of birds that are shot fly away wounded, and will go on to either suffer painful deaths or survive with enduring injuries including from shotgun pellets embedded in their bodies.
Duck shooting is banned in WA, NSW and Queensland, and was never permitted in the ACT.
Pacific Black Duck – Photographer: Deb Lustig
Eight species of usually-protected native waterbirds are declared ‘game species’ during the Victorian duck shooting season, meaning that these birds are legal to shoot during the season. The Minister for Agriculture can remove any species from the list for a season or a part of a season if it requires ‘protection’. The Wildlife (Game) Regulations 2012 set the annual duck season and daily bag limit, with the Minister for Agriculture announcing seasonal arrangements or conditions where required.
Regarding the 2018 duck shooting season, Sue Pennicuik MP said in parliament: “This season should be cancelled due to drought, high temperatures forecast, few wetlands habitats, low numbers of birds and the fact that they are not breeding. Shooting is clearly unable to be monitored or controlled, yet sadly the season will go ahead despite overwhelming evidence that it should not.”
The 2017 survey of wetlands birds in eastern Australia, conducted by the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW found that:
Total waterbird abundance are well below average: the 12th lowest in 35 years. Compared to 2016 there was a sharp decline in ‘breeding species richness, breeding abundance and wetland area and continued long term declines in total abundance. The survey also found that: ‘Game species abundances were well below long term averages, in some cases by an order of magnitude.’
The breeding indexes for so-called ‘game species’ such as the Pacific black duck, the chestnut teal, the Australian wood duck and the pink-eared duck, have been falling steadily since the late 1980s. Game bird numbers were lower than they were in 2007 and 2008, when previous Ministers decided not to allow a duck shooting season to go ahead.
With this information to hand, it is unbelievable that the Andrews government, which should be protecting our struggling native waterbirds, continue to allow another duck shooting season to go ahead.
The Kerang Lakes are recognised by 169 countries as an internationally-significant wetland system under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, but for twelve weeks a year, the Victorian government allows our native waterbirds to be shot on these wetlands.
The Victorian Government regulates hunting through the Game Management Authority (GMA), which issues licenses, produces educational resources, promotes ‘responsible’ hunting and pursues those who hunt illegally.
Following the appalling behaviour of duck shooters at Kerang Lakes during the opening weekend of the 2017 duck season, the GMA released a statement (reproduced here). It reported how hunters had started shooting before the season opened, littered the area with spent cartridges and left dozens of birds to die slow, painful deaths on the water. The GMA confirmed it can take action against those who behaved illegally, but admitted that the number of hunters breaking the law is on the rise.
“What I witnessed at First Marsh near Kerang on the opening of the 2017 season was nothing short of a relentless massacre of birds – and not just ducks. Hundreds of protected, rare and threatened species were shot and left to die. It was shocking and sickening.” – Sue Pennicuik MP
The unlawful behaviour of the duck shooters in 2017 also led to the GMA engaging Pegasus Economics to undertake an independent review to evaluate the Authority’s compliance and enforcement regime, the appropriateness of its operating model and its capacity and capablility to deliver its compliance and enforcement obligations.
The Pegasus Economics report found that:
‘The GMA has not been able to effectively fulfil its compliance and enforcement responsibilities. While many hunters are responsible and respect the game hunting laws, non-compliance with the game hunting laws is commonplace and widespread, and the GMA is widely perceived by its external stakeholders and its own staff as unable either to ensure compliance with the game hunting laws or to effectively sanction offenders when those laws are breached.’
‘The GMA’s inability to ensure compliance with the hunting laws has seriously undermined its credibility as an independent and effective regulator and raises questions about the integrity and sustainability of the regulatory regime.’
‘The GMA lacks scale and critical mass, but its resourcing and operating models are not the primary reasons for its lack of effectiveness. The regulatory and institutional frameworks in which the GMA operates are extremely fragmented, and the game hunting laws are widely perceived by internal and external stakeholders to be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to effectively enforce in the field.’
Every year from March to June, some otherwise protected duck species are declared ‘game species’ and are allowed to be shot during the Victorian duck shooting season. In addition to the slaughter of so-called ‘game species’, many other protected ducks and other bird species are also shot on our wetlands.
Up to one quarter of birds that are shot fly away wounded, and will go on to suffer long, painful deaths or survive with enduring injuries including from shotgun pellets embedded in their bodies.
The government should be protecting our native birds, not facilitating their injury and death.
Duck shooting has been banned in WA, NSW, Queensland and was never permitted in the ACT. I ask that the Victorian government take responsibility for animal welfare and end duck shooting, as the majority of Victorians want.
Authorised by S. Ratnam, 45 William St, Melbourne VIC 3000