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In a fading light, a vanishing

Life in oceans, rivers and seas

“There is an unacceptable risk to nearby residents and unsuspecting members of the public who may come to bushwalk, kayak or bird watch. It's also a shocking risk to our struggling native waterbirds, many unique to our country”. Regional Victorians opposed to duck shooting

Peter Hylands, Andrea Hylands

September 15, 2022

It is Autumn in the south-eastern Australian state of Victoria (2022). Here, a war on Australia’s wildlife is at fever pitch. The annual slaughter of waterbirds started a few days ago, each year here, some 400,000 waterbirds are killed. It will be less this year as birdlife struggles to survive. Birds are not the only ones under attack.

As climate change bites

Climate change bites, the fires and the floods kill vast numbers of animals. This makes no difference, out goes the cry, yet more need to die. And they do in the tens of thousands.

We take a moment to think about Australia’s birdlife.

  • 48 per cent of wetlands surveyed had no birds;
  • Waterbird populations are 41 per cent down on last year;
  • Duck species targeted by hunters are down by 58 per cent on last year and populations are at just 25 percent of the long term average;
  • Breeding is still well below the long-term average and Ibis (not hunted) are responsible for 83 per cent of breeding activity;
  • All major EAWS indices show significant long term declines; and
  • All the above, are despite record rains.

Sustainable killing leading to threatened species listing

And yet the birds face 90 long days of killing again this year. More remarkably, amid the endless claims from the Victorian Government and its employees that the slaughter is ‘sustainable’, two of the duck species they have been killing on mass have now been listed as threatened species. The Blue-winged Shoveler and Hardhead were listed as threatened species (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 – listed in July 2021).

As usual, the announcement that the season would yet again be supported by the government and would go ahead, was made at a time when media were concentrating on the war in Europe and just before the season's start date, in an attempt to avoid media attention and protests against this very unpopular and brutal activity, also involving children in the killing.

Ramsar sites treated with contempt

Among the many places that are not safe in Victoria, include the state’s globally precious Ramsar Sites. In these places where Australia’s birdlife breeds, what is now required is a contemporary and honourable approach to Ramsar Wetlands and waterbird species in Victoria. This means:

  • Embracing the spirit of the Ramsar Convention;
  • Respecting the natural world, education and the wellbeing of children;
  • Respecting and implementing contemporary economic development opportunities;
  • Treating Ramsar sites with respect;
  • Proper signage and information systems, including information on signs about which bird species may be present;
  • A welcome mat for international visitors, that is to provide international visitors with the opportunity to enjoy and learn from their visits to Victoria’s Ramsar sites;
  • A respect for law and order;
  • Conservation measures on Victoria’s Ramsar sites to protect birdlife rather than allowing the cruel slaughter of birdlife that is devastating stressed populations of waterbirds; and
  • Protection of endangered species of birds and other animals that live on or visit Ramsar wetlands in Victoria (many endangered bird species as well as other wildlife have been wounded and killed on Victoria’s Ramsar sites and this continues year after year).

Duck species on the Victorian Government kill list 2022

The beautiful bird species subject to slaughter in Victoria this year are the Pacific Black Duck, Mountain Duck, Chestnut Teal, Grey Teal, Pink-eared Duck and Wood Duck. We mourn them all.