WHAT has already been a controversial duck hunting season is set to get underway tomorrow.
The season opens at 8am tomorrow, and will continue for 20 days before closing 30 minutes after sunset on Monday, June 14.
There will be a daily bag limit of five game ducks per day, and hunting the blue-winged shoveler is prohibited because of continued low numbers.
Hunting start times are delayed through to Sunday, May 30, inclusive, to improve bird identification, recovery of downed ducks and enforcement of the hunting laws.
The later start times are only in place for the first five days, because the start of the season is typically the period when more hunters are out in the field.
Hunting must cease half an hour after sunset each day. For the rest of the season, hunting times begin 30 minutes before sunrise and end 30 minutes after sunset.
Seven of the eight species of game duck are permitted to be hunted – the Pacific black duck, mountain duck, chestnut teal, grey teal, pink-eared duck, wood duck and gardhead.
An announcement to lift some, but not all, restrictions exasperated proponents and opponents last month, when the Game Management Authority increased the bag limit from two to five birds per day, and allowed teal to be hunted, after it was announced in February the Chestnut and Grey teal were protected from being shot north of the Princes Highway.
The authority also announced it would be changing its usual source of information from the independent Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey to data from a new helicopter survey, undertaken in November 2020 by “experienced wildlife consultants”.
Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas has not bowed to opposition and hunter groups’ calls to begin the season immediately.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Jeff Bourman has indicated he will table a petition in parliament calling for an extension to the season to “a full season of 87 days with a full bag of 10 birds per day”.
Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting maintains the season poses a safety risk, citing the examples of New South Wales hunters, who must book in advance to alert authorities to where they will be hunting on public land, while in Victoria, authorities have not even been able to identify where all the public hunting areas are.
The group says neither GMA nor DELWP have been able to provide accurate lists of hunting areas, nor estimate their number, despite numerous Freedom of Information requests.
The group has again written to the Agriculture Minister, requesting due diligence is undertaken, including risk assessments, and social and economic impact studies.
“…we again call for shooting to be restricted to areas which are signposted, monitored, out of ear-shot of residents and to shooters who have passed a waterfowl ID test in the last 12 months,” a spokesperson said.
“With more people living in these areas now than they did in the 1950s, and with more people interested in enjoying Victoria’s natural assets in peace and safety, recreational bird shooting is no longer appropriate.”
At June 30, 2019, 25,042 people were licensed to hunt duck in Victoria, inclusive of those with mixed licenses, and 13,036 were licensed to only hunt game birds including duck, according to GMA licensing statistics.
Duck hunting in Victoria is predominantly undertaken by males, making up 98.1 per cent.
GMA listed Sale as the top town in Victoria for the total reported number of ducks harvested in 2020, despite the Environment Protection Authority Victoria’s warning not to consume ducks from the Heart Morass area because of the high levels of PFAS (per- and poly-fluorinated alkyl substances) found in local ducks.
In US studies, PFAS chemicals have been linked to tumours in animals, increased cholesterol levels, low infant birth weights, effects on the immune system, cancers and thyroid hormone disruption.
While not closed as yet, Hollands Landing Lagoon has been placed on a watch list for wetland closures this season, because of the disturbance to the critically endangered Curlew sandpiper.
The Australian Defence Department is also warning hunters about the hazards of trespassing at its Dutson training area. It is still an active weapons range and has high numbers of unexploded devices, some dating back to World War 2.
Despite signs every 100 metres along the fenced boundary and in the water, previous instances of trespassing have resulted in hunters wandering into the thick of training sessions.
According to the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Region’s Economic Contribution of Recreational Hunting in Victoria report, released last year, recreational hunting contributed $8 million to Wellington Shire’s economy in 2019. Duck hunting accounted for $3.1 million of this (a drop from $8.4 million in 2013), with $2.3 million spent in Sale specifically.
Wellington Shire contributed the third highest duck hunting expenditure to the state in 2019, behind Greater Melbourne ($22.7 million) and Greater Geelong ($4.3 million). Details of the 2021 duck season, including wetland closures, are available via www.gma.vic.gov.au.