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Recreational Duck shooting in Tasmania

Life in the air

"One thousand one hundred shooters represents about 0.2 per cent of the Tasmania population, so if the shooting way of life represents 0.2 of the population, clearly the other 99.8 per cent of the population aren't necessarily supportive of that way of life”. Birdlife Tasmania

Peter and Andrea Hylands

November 12, 2023

Information obtained under Tasmania’s Right To Information (FOI equivalent) shows that the number of licensed shooters killing waterbirds for recreation has declined from over 3,000 in the 1980s to around 1,100. In 2019 there were 1,134 licensed duck shooters in the state.

In Tasmania, an ‘open season’, allowing the recreational killing of otherwise protected Australian species of waterbirds, has occurred each year for around half a century. In 2019, the 1,134 licensed shooters were responsible for killing 49,000 ducks, in 2022 shooters killed a similar number.

In 2023 the open season for ducks commenced on 11 March, ending on 12 June. Each licensed shooter was allowed to kill 10 ducks each day. Species in the line of fire were:

  • Black Duck;
  • Grey Teal;
  • Chestnut Teal;
  • Mountain Duck; and
  • Wood Duck

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania says that since 1985 the department has carried out a state-wide count of waterbirds each February with assistance from the Parks and Wildlife Service and volunteers.

While Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries and Water claims no long term decline in abundance of Tasmania’s waterbirds, we doubt that this assessment is correct in reflecting the east coast Australia circumstances. No recent assessment of migration of targeted waterbird species from the mainland has been undertaken. It does appear highly probable, as claimed by the department, that as a result of the migration of ducks from drier areas of mainland Australia to the wetlands in Tasmania, that this has the impact of sustaining duck populations in Tasmania at the same time as dramatic declines occur on the mainland.

The department also points to the extensive banding of ducks on mainland Australia and in Tasmania during the 1970's which demonstrated that a significant migration of ducks, including the species killed by recreational shooters, occurs across Bass Strait. The department states that:

"9 per cent of the 1,000 Chestnut Teal banded on the mainland of Australia were killed by recreational shooters in Tasmania".

While claiming no long term population declines in Tasmania, the department does acknowledge the spectacular declines of waterbird species on mainland Australia stating:

“Mainland states are taking a conservative approach to duck shooting in 2020: South Australia aims to reduce the killing of ducks in 2020 by 70 per cent of the long term average by adopting a strategy that reduces the daily bird take and by reducing the length of the season”.
“The Victorian Game Management Authority has recommended reducing the number of ducks killed in order to help preserve the core breeding stock”.
“New South Wales, while not having a duck hunting season, had reduced the cull quota of ducks from 120,000 in 2016 to 40,000 in 2020”.

Again from a document obtained under Right to Information the department states:

“The eastern mainland survey of waterbird populations commenced in 1983 to monitor changes in abundance and distribution of 50 waterbird species (including all hunted duck species) in eastern Australia (from Southern Victoria to North Queensland), but not including Tasmania. These surveys found the abundance of waterbirds in 2019 to be among the lowest since recording began with about 50 per cent of birds being found on eleven wetlands. Similarly, the wetland area index for 2019 being the lowest recorded since the surveys began. This clearly demonstrates the area available for ducks is historically low with negative impacts on breeding and survival success as well as concentrating birds on smaller areas”.

As climate change bites and waterbird migration across the Bass Straight increases, we need to make absolutely certain that waterbirds in Australia have a refuge away from the significant harms being inflicted by recreational duck shooters in Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and on the rice fields in New South Wales. Threatened and endangered species are also at risk here (see Freckled Duck above).

Note: In addition to recreational hunting the Tasmanian Government also issues ‘protection’ permits to harm duck species including to golf courses (which is outrageous). Other bird species are also hunted in Tasmania and include the Brown Quail and the Short-tailed Shearwater (also outrageous).

Mountain Duck

This year the RSPCA in Tasmania stated its disappointment in the Tasmanian Government’s decision to proceed with the 2023 duck shooting season, stating:

There are four clear evidence-based reasons that support a ban on duck shooting:

  • Inherent animal welfare issues that cannot be mitigated;
  • It is not sustainable based on climate outlook data;
  • There are significant issues with hunter knowledge and capability; and
  • It is not in line with community expectations.

The ABC reported that:

“The Tasmanian State Government said it had no plans to ban recreational duck hunting”.
"We do respect different people's opinions, but we do have three decades of surveys of wildfowl populations across Tasmania, I understand that a survey was done early in 2022 and it didn't pose any new concerns at all”. Acting Premier Michael Ferguson

Michael Ferguson is a very long way from being correct about not posing concerns and respecting people’s opinions.

Pacific Black Duck
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