NATIVE DUCKS DECLINE DESPITE RAIN
40TH SCIENTIFIC REPORT RELEASED
FLOODING WIPES OUT NATIVE QUAIL, SPREADS TOXIC LEAD
"Despite the massive extent of water held by this full dam, not a waterbird to be seen". Dartmouth Dam / Mitta Mitta River, one of the photos on the UNSW website regarding the 40th Annual Aerial Waterbird Survey.
40th Annual Aerial Survey - The Science Says it All - and its Not Good.
The country’s most important long-term data set on the health and biodiversity of our river and wetland environments has again painted a bleak picture for our native ducks.
Despite two successive La Nina years, three major indices for waterbirds (total abundance, number of species breeding and wetland area index), continued to show significant declines over time. Long term trends are more informative for predicting population status than year to year fluctuations.
Breeding comprised mostly of Straw-necked ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Pelicans, egrets and Whiskered Terns. (Not ducks).
Waterbirds were concentrated in a few wetlands. Around 41% of surveyed wetlands had no waterbirds.
Most game duck species had abundances well below long-term averages, in some cases by an order of magnitude. Six out of eight species continued to show significant long-term decline, with some declining even further from 2021: Grey Teal, Pink-eared Duck and Hardhead. (Noting that in 2021 there had been a 58% fall in game ducks from 2020).
The 40th East Australian Annual Waterbird Survey (EAAWS) data was compiled in November by Professors at the Centre for Ecosystem Science, University NSW: subject matter experts with decades of combined specialist experience between them. It is one of the largest wildlife surveys in Australia, systematically sampling an area of 2,697,000 km2 with ten survey bands 30 km in width, spaced every 2° of latitude from 38°30’S to 20°30’S.
The EAAWS monitors around fifty species of waterbirds at approximately 2,000 wetlands and rivers each year. This long term data provides the essential baseline information with which to assess changes and impacts on the environment and is the only long-term objective data on waterbird populations in Australia. The 40th EAAWS Summary Report can be seen here.
The CEO of Game Management Authority (GMA) has previously advised that the EAAWS is "the most important data" for determining kill quotas. However last year the regulator appeared to defy that data in favour of new experimental helicopter survey data in doubling the kill quota. It is refusing to release the latter data to us under Freedom of Information, despite the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner ruling it should. This gives rise to our concern for the regulator’s decision processes for this year.
A second document which GMA sent to stakeholders this week is termed a “predictive” tool which aims to outline measures for a duck shoot which will allow numbers to “remain sustainable”. It uses the EAAWS (which every year is showing duck indices declining), wetland surface areas (which are apparently making little difference to ducks) and the “Priority duck count” (hardly a match for the EAAWS, and we understand may be assisted by shooters – conflict of interest?) RVOTDS believe it is obvious that attempts to predict how to have a “sustainable” hunting season are futile in the face of damning science.
It is perplexing that the "independent" regulator has not once called a moratorium on a bird shooting season since its inception in 2014, despite presiding over the worst environmental conditions ever recorded. Previous governments have called ceasefires for less dire circumstances.
Our birdlife and regional communities desperately need respite.
RVOTDS will again submit that the upcoming duck and quail shooting season must be cancelled due to the below:
Duck indices are declining despite rain. Many species are unique to Australia and ought to be vehemently protected.
The regulator has little to no understanding of the impacts of shooting to protected and threatened species. To continue to blindly allow recreational bird shooting is not synonymous with the Federal Government’s new commitments to halt extinctions.
The regulator has little to no understanding of the thousands of public waterways where shooting ducks is allowed. This poses an unacceptable safety risk to members of the public and renders it impossible to monitor shooters’ behaviour.
There has only been one “count” of our native Stubble Quail and since then significant flooding would have had a significantly adverse impact on their populations (quail are susceptible to fire and flooding - Frith & Carpenter 1980). Flooding will disperse toxic lead residues even further throughout the landscape including into food producing fields. There is evidence that lead in wetlands "mobilises" and enters the food chain (Guitart and Thomas 2005, Dickerson et al 2007) and can reduce milk production in cattle.
There has still been no social / economic impact study done regarding the impacts of hunting to the non-hunting community (99.98% of Victorians), let alone the growing numbers now living in regional Victoria, sadly unknowingly, in shooting areas. It is simply unacceptable to impede on residents and landowners’ legal rights to peaceful enjoyment of their properties, to satisfy the whims of a minority group of bird shooters, especially when no consultation has occurred with those residents and landowners.
There is already risk of Foot and Mouth Disease in regional areas and we do not need the added risks associated with hunters’ trespass.
We hope with new faces in Parliament and Ministerial positions, that Victoria will now “do what’s right" for our native birdlife and regional communities, and ban recreational bird shooting like other states have done.
For our beautiful birds who cannot speak for themselves, and the communities who love being home to them, thank you for your ongoing support.
Happy Holidays to All.
A very flooded Kerang. Locals say not much wildlife here except mosquitos in stagnant water.