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Why Victoria’s decision not to ban duck shooting is far worse than you might think

Life in the air

“A rough estimate of the number of Australian native animals slaughtered in Victoria each year under the new arrangements for ‘recreation’ and commercial exploitation comes to a staggering 800,000”. Peter Hylands

February 27, 2024

In 2025 there will be a convergence of the changes in Victorian Government policy and legislation that have allowed duck shooting to continue and Kangaroo shooting for commercial gain to occur on public lands, and that is very bad news for Australia’s wildlife and for visitors to regional Victoria.

Nowhere in the state will be safe for wildlife as Kangaroo shooters operating for commercial gain will be able to shoot Kangaroos (expanding from private land only) on public land and on each and every day (night) of the year. Visitors to Victoria’s parks, reserves and wetlands, including Ramsar Sites and the people who call regional Victoria home, will continue to be confronted by the mass killing of wildlife, but now in expanded form.

A rough estimate of the number of Australian native animals slaughtered each year under the new arrangements for ‘recreation’ and commercial exploitation, I am adding up the government’s own numbers, comes to a staggering 800,000. This number does not include the use of ATCWs in Victoria (mitigation permits which are handed out for numerous Australian species (almost 100) and to anyone who asks) nor the secretive killing of Koalas.

Immediate issues arising from announcement

  • Pick a cherry: Claims from the government about record high breeding rates are silly. Looking at the long term data, which the government would have done, shows a significant and sustained decline in duck populations. As RVOTDS so nicely describe it, this is ‘shooters' science (as opposed to scientists' science) adopted by government.
  • Pushing back any changes in regulation and compliance to 2025 (if that is indeed their intention) means there is plenty of time to dilute them (delay always gives the same results just as it did to the outcome of the duck shooting inquiry).
  • Firing shot into a flock of ducks means more than one bird may be injured, so claims of reducing the wounding rate by improving shooter knowledge and skills are also dubious. The debate about these issues in relation to duck shooting have gone on for years, why is it going to improve now?
  • Victoria has an Environment Minister who has also just become the Minister for Outdoor Recreation and who believes that ‘duck hunting is a legitimate activity – but more than that, it supports regional communities and economies’. Far from benefiting the regional economy, commercial and recreational killing of wildlife destroy economic opportunities for Victoria’s regions where a small number of individuals can dominate wetlands and soon other public lands and all year round. I can tell you that you do not want to visit these places while the killing is going on. Yet again the residents opposed to and impacted by these killing activities are ignored and will have to live with it or move.
  • Yet again the impact of climate change on native species is ignored (duck shooting seasons have continued through floods, fire, drought and COVID), nothing will change.
  • Compliance in these circumstances is very hard to manage, much of the shooting occurs unsupervised and across numerous locations in the state.
  • Given that duck shooting in Victoria is to continue, so will the de-listing attempts of already threatened duck species as they are needed to prop up the kill. If all the active duck shooters in Victoria filled their bag limits each day during the 2024 season the maximum kill would be around 5 million ducks. While this would never happen it does describe the scope and scale of what is to come.

We found it interesting that the government press release we received did not provide a phone number for the media / journalists to call if they had questions.

A note on shotguns: Shotguns when fired produce a spray of many small pellets (shot) that make hitting a flying target like a duck much easier than using a single bullet. The shot begins to spread as soon as it leaves the shotgun. The rate of spread differs depending on type of shotgun and shot.

Road signs, welcome to Victoria's Ramsar Sites

Our experience with government inquiries in Australia (some back of the envelope costs)

"We have contributed to a number of government inquiries regarding wildlife and the environment, mostly for state governments, but also the Commonwealth Government. These submissions are developed with the public duty in mind. We are not paid, just like all other submitters who are also not paid. We are providing significant amounts of accumulated knowledge as well as new research. I have also sat in committee hearings as a witness with perhaps 25 politicians and government staff, all well paid. I was the only person in the room being paid nothing although I was delivering the information and answering questions". Peter Hylands

The result of a great deal of effort on our part, precisely ZERO. Not one positive change I can think of across a dozen or so inquiries.

Accountability

In the case of the Victorian Government’s recreational duck shooting inquiry, even the inquiry committee’s main recommendation, that it should be banned was ignored.

In its press release on the subject the government states that:

“The views of more than 10,000 Victorians and organisations were heard in the biggest response to a Parliamentary inquiry ever in Victoria”.

I suspect that is all anyone knows unless your go and read all 10,000 submissions. If we do a back of the envelope costing of the value of these submission, (using modest hourly charge out rates for all those that contributed), at the very least their value would be $1.2 million but much more likely a multiple of that.

The Victorian Government should provide the public with an analysis, graded by quality and significance (say four gradings) categorising recommendations, particularly so for the for and against cases and scoring the results accordingly. If this does not occur, then the submissions, given this was the biggest ever response, should be audited.

“We thank everyone who contributed to the Inquiry – the process was about listening to different perspectives, and that’s exactly what we’ve done”. Steve Dimopoulos

That is the only way we will ever know if the government took the views of the majority of submitters into account.

This is a Ramsar Site hidden in plain sight.

Here is the story from the Victorian Government

"Recreational duck and quail hunting will continue in Victoria with important changes to ensure it remains safe, sustainable and responsible.

The Victorian Government today announced its response to Parliament’s Inquiry into Victoria's recreational native bird hunting arrangements – confirming its position has not changed, and recreational duck and quail hunting will continue with common-sense changes.

The Government will accept seven of the Select Committee’s eight recommendations in full or in principle. While the Committee did not reach consensus in its report, the views of more than 10,000 Victorians and organisations were heard in the biggest response to a Parliamentary inquiry ever in Victoria.

Recreational duck and quail hunting is a legitimate activity, and it matters to thousands of Victorians who love the great outdoors, but it needs to proceed safely and sustainably. That’s why we’re introducing common-sense changes to make hunting even more responsible from 2025, including:

  • 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 .

To guide the length and conditions of each duck season, the science-based Adaptive Harvest Management process will be implemented from 2025 – making sure that it’s always science that guides the season.

After record-high native bird breeding in recent years due to the significant rainfall Victoria has received, the Victorian game duck population increased by almost threefold.

Minister for Outdoor Recreation, Steve Dimopoulos has announced the 2024 duck season will commence on Wednesday 10 April 2024 and end on Wednesday 5 June 2024, inclusive.

Hunting start times will be delayed to 8:00 am for the entire season. With a daily bag limit of six ducks per day, the Blue-winged Shoveler and Hardhead cannot be hunted for the 2024 season due to their threatened status. Determinations will be made as part of normal seasonal arrangements about sites where duck hunting will be prohibited".