Tuesday, 30 January 2024
As the President of BirdLife Australia, I am writing to express my deep disappointment at the Victorian Government’s decision this week to allow recreational native bird hunting to continue in the state in 2024.
In doing so, the Victorian Government ignores the recommendations of its own parliamentary inquiry – wasting taxpayers’ time, money and resources. In August, the Select Committee on Victoria’s Recreational Native Bird Hunting Arrangements found that the practice should be banned on all private and public land in the state, citing environmental and animal welfare concerns.
The shock announcement flies in the face of these recommendations and ignores extensive scientific evidence revealing the heavy toll of recreational hunting on waterbirds. It also dismisses public sentiment and is an insult to the overwhelming majority of Victorians who support an end to this brutal and unnecessary practice. Instead, the Victorian Government – the same government that claims to be committed to stopping extinctions and protecting our most vulnerable species – has caved to the pressure of a small but vocal minority.
We know that waterbird populations are continuing to decline across eastern Australia. The Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey (EAWS) – one of the longest-running annual waterbird surveys in Australia – shows waterbird populations have declined, some by as much as 90%, over the last forty years in eastern Australia. The study identifies long and medium-term declines in over 50% of Australian waterbird species – including significant long-term population declines in five of Victoria’s eight game duck species. Not one of these species has shown population recovery – but despite this, over the past ten years, an average of 320,000 ducks are shot and killed each hunting season in Victoria alone.
Meanwhile, birds that aren’t directly shot or injured are still ‘caught in the crossfire’ – including the non-target and threatened species that call these wetlands home. Human disturbance poses a serious threat to waterbirds and can cause nesting failure, and reduced feeding opportunities and habitat availability. The real toll of recreational hunting on our birds is far greater than the staggering seasonal harvest estimates we see reported.
In an attempt to make the practice safer and more “sustainable”, the Victorian Government has announced stricter regulations (including a reduced bag limit and a delayed hunting start time) – but these penalties simply aren’t good enough. We know that concessions alone aren’t enough to help declining waterbird populations recover – the Australasian Shoveler, for example, only recently taken off Victoria’s game list, is now listed under Victorian threatened species legislation. There is nothing sustainable about this practice, and the harshest penalties will always fall on our threatened and declining waterbirds.
Australia is in a climate and biodiversity crisis, and wetlands are under pressure across the country. With recent climate change modelling projecting more extreme weather events, declining waterbird populations continue to face mounting challenges – exacerbated by the unnecessary and significant threat posed by recreational hunting. Instead of directing their efforts to reducing these threats and protecting biodiversity, it’s disappointing to see the Victorian government support the continuation of this brutal, unsustainable activity.
While this week’s decision is another devastating blow to threatened and declining native waterbirds, BirdLife Australia will continue its decades-long fight to end duck hunting in Victoria and will continue to advocate for the practice to be banned across the country.
Media contact: Mandy Bamford, BirdLife Australia President (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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