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Overwhelming community feedback is that bird shooting hampers more popular, family friendly and financially beneficial pastimes such as birdwatching, kayaking and fishing.


2023 Report Proves Bird Hunting NOT Sustainable


With native bird hunting in Victoria under threat, the Game Management Authority (GMA) released its annual bird shooting season data remarkably quickly this year (just before Cup Day) – and with a media release to boot. Normally, stakeholders are kept in the dark about what happened during the autumn shoot until the following year, on the brink of the next shoot. (In 2022, the report was quietly released in February. In 2021, it did not appear until March.)


In its haste to publish, the "independent" regulator seemingly failed to recognise that the reported kill numbers overshot its own sustainability target by a country mile.


In 2021, GMA suggested a 10% cull is sustainable. (*Note this benchmark is used in the northern hemisphere for species that are naturally increasing. There is no evidence that it’s sustainable for Australia’s diminishing bird populations.)


GMA's (taxpayer funded) helicopter duck count produces two duck population estimates depending on mathematical techniques used. The regulator always chooses the larger estimate (even though Arthur Rylah Institute has stated this is the less accurate figure). The two relevant counts for 2023 were 2.41 million and 1.9 million. So a 10% cull would be 241,000 or 190,000 respectively.


The subsequent “harvest” of 320,000 ducks this year was hence an overshoot of 33% at best, more likely 68% over the threshold of the regulator's definition of "sustainable".


Worse, this is in a year when Professor Kingsford’s annual waterbird survey showed game duck abundance was down to the third lowest in 40 years.


2023 Illegal Behaviour Report


Another damning statistic is on page 10 of the regulator’s season report. It notes that 11 of their survey respondents admitted to exceeding bag limits, which represents 1.2% of active duck shooters.


The report stops short of articulating that 1.2% of active duck shooters equates to 170 duck shooters exceeding the legal bag limit. This alarming figure is without accounting for the number who did not admit doing so, or the number who committed other offences such as shooting out of hours, shooting protected species, not retrieving wounded birds etc.


How many prosecutions have taken place? Very few it seems.


Shooter Numbers Fall - Still Firing Blanks at Elections


Meanwhile, the number of licensed duck shooters has plunged to just 21,959, the lowest since the 2009 millennium drought. A third of these aren’t active (don’t go duck shooting).


RVOTDS has obtained the latest data of duck and quail shooter licences per postcode.


In most electorates, less than half of one percent of voters hold a duck shooting licence. A small handful of electorates nudge just above 2% - these are safe Coalition seats.


Quail shooter numbers are even fewer and only 18% of them actually go out quail shooting.


While shooters have long threatened “votes are at stake” if Victoria bans native bird hunting, it is clear even marginal electorates are unlikely to swing on this issue. For example:


  • Ripon has 531 duck shooting licences. With a third inactive, call it 345. Labor’s winning margin there in 2022 was 2535 votes.

  • Pakenham has just 88 duck shooters (call it 57), Labor won by 307 votes.

  • Hastings has only 219 duck shooters (call it 142), Labor won by 1116.


Importantly, shooter clubs’ newsletters show that in previous elections their supporters were encouraged to vote Coalition/Shooters Party anyway.


Conversely, with most Victorians supporting a bird shooting ban, there are votes to be gained by banning it. Anecdotally we are aware that many clay target shooters, fishers and farmers are opposed to bird hunting too.


All Eyes on New Premier


RVOTDS appreciates the government's recent Inquiry into Native Bird Hunting and the fact regional Victorians' concerns are reflected in the Select Committee's report.


As still no risk assessments have been carried out at the thousands of public waterways where shooting is permitted, we'd like to think this is a sign the government is planning to accept the Select Committee's recommendation to ban native bird hunting, and that the last bird shoot was indeed the last. A UComms Poll in 2021 showed while most Victorians wanted duck shooting banned, the strongest support for a ban came from the regions. There's good reason.


Over 1.6 million Victorians now live in the regions with the right to peaceful enjoyment of their properties. Regional businesses need tourism (which shooting thwarts). Farmers need protection from trespass and crop contaminants. 


We are hopeful Ms Allan will be the Premier to listen to regional Victorians, and follow the lead of other progressive states which banned recreational native duck and quail shooting decades ago.


We need a government that delivers for regional Victoria.



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