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Weights and measures

Life in the air

“2018: Hunters will now be required to retrieve all game ducks they shoot and harvest and will be required to at least salvage the breast meat from a duck to ensure that harvested game is not wasted”.

Peter Hylands

November 10, 2022

The Victorian Government has announced that there will be yet another Duck Hunting Season in 2018. This is a vast scale and cruel slaughter of Australia’s waterbirds. Here we measure the scale of this catastrophic annual event. We describe these matters with quotes by government ministers and their public servants (civil servants) and we weigh them accordingly.

Victoria: Duck hunting season 2018

The 2018 Duck Hunting Season commenced on 17 March and ended 11 June.  Bag limits were ten ducks per day per hunter (described as normal) and seven of the eight species of ducks described as game species can be hunted, the Blue-winged Shoveler is excluded from Victoria’s 2018 slaughter of birdlife.

Freckled Duck
The rare Freckled Duck

Victoria: Duck hunting season 2016

Bag limits have been increased from 2016, when eight birds per hunter were allowed on opening day and just four thereafter for the rest of that season. So the increase in limits for both the 2017 and 2018 seasons are significant and based on Victorian Government reasoning that suggests that improved rainfall has meant that duck numbers have increased.

We do not of course consider climate change and circumstances in the adjoining states of New South Wales (climatic conditions and significant and recent weakening of protections for wildlife), hunting in the adjoining wetlands in South Australia and circumstances in Tasmania, all of which were dire.

Chestnut Teal
Chestnut Teal

Victoria: Duck hunting season: Recent history

In 2015 an aerial survey found that 60 per cent of Eastern Australia’s wetlands were dry due to severe drought conditions and bird counts reinforced the trend of long-term decline in waterbird populations.

The period prior to this in Victoria was equally shocking, by 2009 and over the previous 25 years, duck numbers in Victoria had declined by 75 per cent. Regardless of these appalling circumstances, and against the strong advice of the scientific community, the Victorian Government allowed the 2009 duck hunting season to proceed, followed by similar seasons in the following years, which even included significant extensions to the hunting season (12 weeks).

In 2011, 600,000 birds were slaughtered on Victoria’s wetlands, many more were wounded.

Wounding rates

While I could not find any studies in Australia that looked reliable, studies in the US and Europe suggest that the wounding rate (and accompanying suffering) is between 18 and 35 per cent, so adding a further 108,000 to 210,000 to the total for the 2011 season.

By 2016 in Victoria the total wetland index was at its lowest ever, concentrating many species in ever fewer wetlands (100 plus species are impacted by the hunting which also pollutes the wetlands).

Royal Spoonbill
Royal Spoonbill

The index of waterbird abundance was the second lowest on record.

Silly claims by politicians

The quote below is from Jaala Pulford, Victorian Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Regional Development at the time, who also claimed that duck shooting is a major contributor to the Victorian economy (I think we might be missing some understanding of maximising the economic potential of regional development).  

“Environmental conditions, waterfowl habitat availability, duck population distribution and abundance are reviewed each year to ensure hunting continues to be a sustainable recreation for future generations.”

In that year 87 per cent of Victorians were opposed to duck hunting and less than half of one per cent of the Victorian population were actively engaged in duck hunting.

Duck crunch

Ducks and other birds shot (killed and injured) in the previous three duck shooting seasons in Victoria have an estimated total body weight of 1.19 million kilos. This total weight of dead and injured ducks and collateral damage species is the equivalent to:

The body weight of around 298 Asian Elephants Elephas maximus);

  • 3,400 times the total combined bodyweight of the compliance officers who administered the hunt;
  • 46.5 per cent of the total combined body weight of Victoria’s directly employed Public Service (Civil Servants); and
  • 133 times the total combined body weight of the Victorian members of State Parliament, that translates to 425 times the total combined body weight of the members of the Legislative Council and 193 times the total combined body weight of the members of the Legislative Assembly.

There remains a lack of empathy for the suffering of these very beautiful waterbirds by the politicians and public servants who defend this conduct.

Troubled waters

Strangely, birds that are not ducks such as Swans, Pelicans, Spoonbills, Ibis, Parrot species and Egrets are caught up in the slaughter, as are very rare and protected duck species. We estimate here, from the available figures, that this number of 'collateral damage' birds is likely to be in the region of 8,000 birds per annum.

In 2017, 296 protected birds that were shot and killed were collected from just one Victorian wetland by conservationists over a period of 5 days, 183 of which were from the threatened Freckled Duck and Blue-billed Duck species. The wetland was closed following the focus on it by the media and the collection of the birds by the conservationists.

Below is an extract from a letter from the Victorian Government Department of Land, Water and Planning to Peter and Andrea Hylands, 8 June 2017, in response to our concerns about the ongoing and extreme cruelty to Australia's wildlife:

"In regard to duck hunting in Victoria, I can assure you that environmental considerations, waterfowl habitat availability, duck population distribution are reviewed each year to ensure that hunting continues to be a sustainable recreation*”.

NOTE: *The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines recreation as a pleasurable exercise, pastime or amusement.

This is a Ramsar Site but you would not know that

NOTE: The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines sustainable, a word that appears in most Victorian Government responses to the issues of cruelty and loss of biodiversity occurring in the state, as supportable, maintainable.

Given that Australia sits at the very top of the list of countries destroying their species and ecosystems (biodiversity) and Victoria, given its history and current conduct in these matters, is among the worst that Australia has to offer when it comes to biodiversity loss.

Setting aside the gross cruelty here, which is always denied, how then do Victoria’s public servants and politicians imagine that the behaviours described here are either supportable or maintainable? To read more about what is not sustainable in Victoria look at this website for what is also being done to other Australian species in the state.