Calls for duck season to go ahead

Eastern Victoria MLC Melina Bath and Gippsland South MLA Danny OBrien say confirmation of the 2020 duck hunting season is long overdue. Ms Bath (left) and Mr OBrien (right) are pictured at Heart Morass, Sale, with Sale Field and Game representative Gary Howard (second from right) and Field and Game Australia chief executive Dean OHara.
Eastern Victoria MLC Melina Bath and Gippsland South MLA Danny OBrien say confirmation of the 2020 duck hunting season is long overdue. Ms Bath (left) and Mr OBrien (right) are pictured at Heart Morass, Sale, with Sale Field and Game representative Gary Howard (second from right) and Field and Game Australia chief executive Dean OHara.

EASTERN Victoria MLC Melina Bath is calling on the state government to confirm the 2020 duck season.

"Recreational shooters are incredibly important to Gippsland's regional economy, and it is imperative the season goes ahead," Ms Bath said.

"Gippsland tourism has experienced an unprecedented downturn as a result of bushfire - we don't need Labor's political games.

"Recreational duck hunting is a sustainable and highly popular pastime, delivering an array of regional economic and social benefits.

"Confirmation of the 2020 duck hunting season is long overdue."

Ms Bath has written to Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes calling for an immediate confirmation of the 2020 duck season.

"There is substantial concern across Gippsland that Labor will cancel duck season, which would be a disastrous blow to our local tourism sector and recreational businesses at what's already a difficult time," said Ms Bath.

"Recreational shooters inject enormous amounts of revenue into regional economies, which is no more evident than in Gippsland.

"During 2019, the Commonwealth Department of Health report identified recreational hunting was worth $2.4 billion to the Australian economy, with Victoria contributing a huge $638 million each year," she said.

"Organisations such as Field and Game and the Sporting Shooters Association are to be commended for ensuring their activity remains safe and sustainable.

"Locally, Gippsland Field and Game members are actively involved and committed to habitat restoration and protection.

"A prime example of this work is Field and Game's restoration of the Heart Morass, where local members play a leading role in maintaining this unique wetland system."

Gippsland South MLA Danny O'Brien said duck hunting was popular in Gippsland, with many families participating together and harvesting their own wild food.

"Sale has the biggest Field and Game Australia branch in the country, but more importantly it brings so many visitors to our region - something we desperately need right now.

"The Labor government needs to stand up to radical activists and ensure our country traditions are allowed to continue."

Ms Bath said any decisions applied by the government to duck season must be based on fact, not ideology.

"Recent rainfall in Gippsland has put water levels at key sites at optimal levels, with both Heart Morass and Dowds Morass full," she said.

"Other sites including Lake Coleman and the McLennan Strait are also in excellent condition.

"We have over 25,000 recreational shooters in Victoria who are licensed to hunt water fowl, and Gippsland businesses urgently need the 2020 duck season to be confirmed."

Meanwhile, Field and Game Australia chief executive Dean O'Hara has criticised misrepresentations in a recent poll on duck hunting in southern Victoria.

His comments follow reports from Gippsland Field and Game Association members saying they were questioned by pollsters purporting to be a responsible polling organisation.

Questions included whether respondents supported a decision for a duck season and whether they would support the state government if it declared a duck season.

"The government has shown their support for sustainable duck hunting in past actions and words - made clear by Minister Lily D'Ambrosio in an interview with The Weekly Times in December 2019: 'The government won't be banning duck hunting'," Mr O'Hara said.

FGA chairman Peter Hawker agreed with Mr O'Hara's views and called for the use of relevant facts and data .

"Regional Victoria needs a cash injection and duck hunters willingly provide that to the rural economy," he said.

Mr Hawkers said FGA had provided a comprehensive report backed by long-term scientific studies proving the sustainability of duck hunting, including sensible bag limits to represent seasonal conditions.

But Animal Justice Party MLC Andy Meddick is calling on the state government to end support for the killing of "defenceless animals in the name of 'sport' ".

Mr Meddick has been campaigning for an end to duck shooting since he was elected in 2018, and said evidence showed it was "no longer acceptable by the broader community", particularly in the wake of recent fires that had decimated large parts of regional Australia.

He said there was documented evidence that many birds did not die instantly when pellets were sprayed, with about one in four left to die slow deaths with broken wings and legs, and pellets in vital organs.

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