Precious birds in line of fire - again
On April 23, the Minister for Regional Development Jaclyn Symes, announced native bird shooting will proceed as of May 2, at this stage on duck shooters' own properties.
A review of whether it may proceed more widely, is due May 11.
Sadly, the killing of protected species and the cruelty, will likely still occur on private land same as it would on public.
The only difference is it will have little monitoring, which poses significant risk to our struggling bird populations, not to mention our rural communities vulnerable to COVID.
Who will stop potentially infected people coming to rural properties to shoot birds and who will monitor what and how they shoot?
Last season, over 30 instances of hunting and firearm related offences were recorded just at the few waterways authorities happened to be at, just on one weekend, despite record low numbers of duck shooters.
RVOTDS have asked GMA what number of compliance patrols will be out and about and what percentage of total shooting areas will be monitored. We are yet to receive an answer.
Even with the assistance of Victoria Police who we believe should not have to be involved in monitoring this unnecessary activity, it is not possible to oversee all wetlands during recreational bird shooting.
Neither our rural communities nor our birdlife, need the risk.
Inviting cruelty & protected species casualties
The wound (“crippling”) inevitably involved in shooting birds with shotguns - be it on private or public land - is unacceptably high in a modern society.
RSPCA Australia put it at 26-45% of birds shot who will not be killed outright but flap away to die slow painful deaths.
Extensive American studies including those led by global ballistics experts, put it at 30% - around twice the figure reported by shooters who perhaps don’t always see the birds they wound.
Line this figure up with the conservative "harvest estimates" (which do not include those shot and left behind including protected species) of hundreds of thousands of birds shot even in "restricted" seasons. The result is tens of thousands of birds who suffer protracted deaths as a result of Victoria's annual recreational bird shoot.
Sadly the wound rate is unlikely to have improved in Australia as any real accuracy tests are voluntary with a low participation rate. Notwithstanding the fact shooting often occurs before daylight which makes it difficult for shooters to see.
This is no doubt a reason why Australian Veterinary Association have added their voices to the fight to ban this activity; a fight that started long before Victoria’s own Animal Welfare Advisory Committee recommended it be phased out in 2002.
It gets worse.
Due to lock down measures, ornithologists have been unable to carry out their usual checks for threatened species preceding the shooting season. While GMA say they are doing this, it is not possible for them to do so on any real scale – particularly when they are seemingly unaware of where all the shooting areas are (their maps are still missing thousands).
Our bird populations were already reported to be on the brink, with long term significant decline of all key indices.
Shooting our Financial Futures
In allowing a bird shooting season, the government risks our children’s ability to enjoy the birdlife we do today, our nature assets – many species unique to our country – which rural communities will be relying on more and more in future for sustainable year round tourism.
Birdwatching is worth over $41 billion USD just in the US and is far more popular than bird shooting (USFWS).
In Australia, Kakadu attracts around 200,000 visitors a year and here in Victoria, Winton Wetlands near Benalla where they shoot birds with cameras now see 66,000 visitors a year despite drought conditions– that’s more than double the number of duck shooters there are across the whole state.
From beautiful Boort and stunning Kerang, to the amazing Corangamite, opportunities lay waiting to be realised around Victoria.
While polls continue to show the majority of Victorians - city and country - want duck shooting banned, the percentage of Victorians who hold duck licenses is tiny - less than half of one percent- and is declining.
But sadly, even a minority can cause extreme upset to families- feathered and non.
RVOTDS is calling on the Premier to do the right thing and make the call the majority of his constituents want him to make; ban duck shooting on public and private land.
Picture Pacific Black Duck, Eleanor Dilley