Ducking serious: government rejects duck hunt ban

Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath, pictured with Rick Foster from Morwell Field and Game, welcomed the state government's decision but believes the 'devil will be in the detail'.

Zaida Glibanovic

LOCAL hunters rejoiced after the state government shot down the duck hunting debate, opting to keep the season in place.

While recreational duck and quail hunting will continue in Victoria, it’s not without its reforms, in an effort to keep the sport ‘safe, sustainable and responsible’.

The state government announced its response to the Parliament’s Inquiry into Victoria’s recreational native bird hunting arrangements on Monday (January 29) – confirming its position has not changed, and recreational duck and quail hunting will continue despite the inquiry’s recommendation of a blanket ban.

Minister for Outdoor Recreation, Steve Dimopoulos said duck hunting was integral to regional life.

“Duck hunting is a legitimate activity – but more than that, it supports regional communities and economies,” he said.

“Our position has not changed and we’re supporting recreational duck and quail hunting to continue in a safe, sustainable and responsible way with minimal harm to our environment.”

The state government plans to make changes to hunting laws to reduce the effects on endangered species, including introducing harsher penalties for hunters who break the law.

These changes were made on the basis of the state inquiry’s recommendations and include:

Improving hunters’ knowledge and skill by making education and training for hunters mandatory;

Stricter compliance levels, including further penalties for hunters breaking the rules;
Banning the use of lead shot for quail hunting;

Implementing the Waterfowl Wounding Reduction Action Plan, to reduce the risk of wounding, and;

Greater recognition of Traditional Owners’ knowledge of hunting and land management.
The Parliamentary Inquiry found duck hunting had “acute animal welfare” issues and contributed to the loss of large areas of public land.

Animal rights groups slammed the state government’s decision. RSPCA Victoria Chief Executive, Dr Liz Walker questioned how the decision to keep the duck hunting season was safe, sustainable or responsible.

“Devastated doesn’t begin to cover it,” Dr Walker said.

“The government wants to invest $10 million into mandatory training, hoping this will reduce wounding rates, however Denmark, a world leader in wounding reduction, took 20 years to reduce wounding rates, and these rates still sit unacceptably high at around 10 per cent.

“At a minimum, a $10 million investment means spending around $205 per licensed hunter, and considering how few licenced hunters actively participate, the cost blows out to around $524 per hunter.

“During a cost-of-living crisis, there are plenty of struggling Victorians who would rather $524 in their own pocket.”

Political strategists suggested the duck hunting ban would alienate a significant proportion of Labor voters, with the Herald Sun making note that Premier Jacinta Allan has one of the largest proportion of registered duck and quail hunters in her electorate of any Labor MP.
The Age has reported that taxpayers spend millions to support this “fowl sport”, which, according to game licence statistics, had a 97.9 per cent male participation rate in 2023.

Closer to home, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Public Land Use and Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath, welcomed the decision, calling it a win for hunters and their families and for science and sensibility.

Ms Bath said The Committee Report for Inquiry into Victoria’s Recreational Native Bird Hunting Arrangements was seriously flawed, and the state government made the correct choice to reject the recommendation to ban duck and quail hunting in Victoria.

“Any ban on duck and quail hunting introduced in Victoria would have been based on emotion and political ideology, not sound science,” she said.

“During the Inquiry, the Committee heard in evidence that the greatest threat to duck populations is habitat decline, not hunting.

“If hunters continue to revive and care for our wetlands as they have done, then our waterfowl will have habitat to breed and flourish into the future.

“Our law abiding hunters don’t fear regulation – their simple request is the activity is regulated with science, not emotion.”

Ms Bath said while the state government was allowing the hunting of ducks and quail to continue for now, its decision was being met with cautious optimism as the devil was in the detail.

“It’s been a wet year with favourable breeding conditions, duck populations have increased – yet the Allan Labor government has imposed restrictions on the 2024 season outside of the Game Management Authority’s recommendations,” Ms Bath said.

“While the continuation of duck hunting is a win, there is justifiable disappointment for the scheduling of opening morning on a Wednesday, enforcing a six duck bag limit and 8am start times – highlighting the political games are continuing under the Allan Labor government.”

Ms Bath thanked hunting organisations, hunters, and their families for the respectful manner in which they approach the debate and for their ongoing volunteer efforts to restore Victorian wetland habitats.

The state government has decided to keep the duck hunting season alive. Photo: File