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Above: Australian wood duck, pic Eleanor Dilley

Latest Wetlands & Waterbirds Scientific Report Released


The forty-first East Australian Waterbird Survey (EAWS) has just been released. The annual survey is run by Professor Kingsford’s team at the Centre for Ecosystem Science, of the University NSW. It's the most consistently expansive, and long-term scientific data available, to monitor critical trends in our waterbirds and wetland environments.


Key Points:


  • Despite two consecutive La Nina years, three major indices for waterbirds: abundance, number of species breeding and wetland area index, continue to show long-term decline. Long-term trends are more informative for predicting population status than year to year fluctuations.

  • Wetland area decreased considerably from the previous year, to well below the long-term average.

  • 40% of wetlands surveyed had no waterbirds.

  • Total breeding decreased by an order of magnitude from the previous year and was below the long-term average. 97% of the small amount of breeding noted, was in species other than ducks.

  • While game duck abundance increased (due to La Nina breeding event in 2022), five out of eight hunted species continue to show significant long-term declines.  They are Pacific Black Duck, Australasian Shoveler, Grey Teal, Mountain Duck and Australian Wood Duck. Mountain Duck declined in abundance from last year despite La Nina.

With our ducks not breeding, wetlands drying, and El Nino predicted to hit us hard, conservationists will agree, our ducks should be protected and not shot for recreation.


Some good un-biased coverage by Herald Sun here.


The EAWS summary report can be viewed here.


Sustainable? Not.


It’s not just game ducks that need protection. As the report shows, shorebirds and wading birds are also in decline, and collateral damage in duck shooting seasons.


According to documents obtained via FOI, the current regulator has not kept reliable (if any) records of protected and threatened species shot during native bird hunting seasons. But the previous regulator did. 


Other factors affecting sustainability are toxic lead and microplastics, a byproduct of bird shooting seasons and something our struggling ecosystems (and farms) could do without.


Conservationists around the state are heartbroken by the latest 5-yearly Victorian State of the Environment report released November 30, 2023. The report card was grim. In short, “Responding to biodiversity decline remains a big challenge for Victoria”.


Nature-based Tourism is Flying - especially in other states


Meanwhile, Tourism Research Australia’s data recently released for year ending June 2023 shows outdoor nature-based activities* remain by far, the number 1 most popular activity outside of social activities such as visiting friends/family, eating out.


Victoria is still running behind NSW and Qld for number of visits, number of accommodation nights, and associated revenue. While $7 billion came to Victoria, $14 billion and $12 billion went to QLD and NSW respectively.


Birdwatching data is not yet available by state. Nationally, domestic tourists who birdwatched brought a whopping 72% more revenue to the country for the year-ending June 2023 than they did in the year before. And once again, more tourists birdwatched than visited the reef or went dolphin / whale watching.


*Tourism Research Australia define outdoor nature-based activities as going to the beach, visits to national/state parks/public gardens, whale or dolphin watching, farm visits, bushwalking, visiting the reef, birdwatching.


Further Reality Check on Ducks Shooters' Electoral Sway


In our previous newsletter we shared the latest postcode data obtained from the hunting regulator. For transparency, here is a further break-down of what it means for marginal electorates and a couple of others thrown in for good measure. It's important that any media content is evidence-based.


Our detailed calculations per electorate can be viewed here. (See something different elsewhere? Ask them how they crunched the numbers).


Summary below:

These calculations are based on Game Management Authority data for the number of duck licences in each  postcode.  Where a postcode extends across several electorates, we pro-rata those licences between electorates according to population distribution (detailed population data is available from the Victorian Electoral Commission).


The Clock is Ticking. Ministers' Urgent Moral Responsibility


Unless Ministers step in and cancel it, another recreational native bird shoot will be upon us in just a few months.


The recent Parliamentary Inquiry's report on Native Bird Hunting was clear. For reasons of animal welfare, amenity, and sustainability, it’s well past time this minority choice of recreation was banned in Victoria like it is elsewhere.


Please help us make sure the Victorian Premier has our message. Taxpayers should not be spending one more cent to support native bird hunting. It’s time to fund conservation.


Send a respectful note to the Premier to let her know your thoughts.



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