FOI SHOWS FATE OF NATIVE WATERBIRDS IS SHOT IN CURRENT SYSTEM
UPCOMING ELECTIONS - THE CHANCE FOR CHANGE
As our borders open up to tourism, what percentage of international tourism will our rural areas see?
Birdwatching is one of the fastest growing and lucrative pastimes in the world. As our borders open, it's worth remembering in the first year birdwatching data was collected (2019), 1.4 million tourists birdwatched in our country and spent $2.88 billion (Tourism Research Australia Visitor Surveys). Here's the best part - many of Australia's waterbirds are unique to our country. But studies show most tourists avoid shooting areas. Seems there's an easy fix here...And goodness knows there's enough violence in today's world.
Freedom of Information (FOI) Update.
We've finally received some documents due to us in November 2021, from Game Management Authority (GMA), relating to last year’s last-minute doubling of the native duck kill quota (aka shooters' daily bag limit).
GMA are withholding key documents saying they are “opinion/advice or recommendation against the public interest to disclose”. But most people would agree that information which has influenced decisions impacting our dwindling native bird populations and rural communities, would absolutely be in the public interest. We are escalating this to the Information Commissioner. Stay tuned.
In the interim, documents which were released, show:
GMA increased the kill limit based on a “pilot” helicopter survey (subsequently found to be flawed).
Department of Jobs Precincts and Regions advised the CEO of GMA there were “too few pink-eared and shoveler counted to get robust estimates”, yet GMA recommended the same kill rate for "pinkies" as the other game ducks regardless.
Despite concerns for numbers of Grey Teal previously, GMA combined the numbers of Grey Teal and Chestnut Teal in increasing the kill rate for both, because their chopper count failed to distinguish between the two species.
A lack of scientific data doesn’t seem to concern GMA. Their Board minutes captured another clincher, their view that there was “no reason to suggest any amendments to the native stubble quail shooting season”. We believe it would have been more accurate to have said, there is no reason NOT to. For a start, there is no population data for Victorian native stubble quail according to GMA and the Minister’s office, and quail shooters spray an estimated 5 tonnes* of toxic lead around our (often food growing) environments each year.
Unfortunately to many folks, this “independent” regulator is proving time and again to be pro-hunting, neither concerned with bird numbers, nor impacts of hunting on anyone other than hunters who represent less than 1% of the population. Perhaps this should not be a surprise given the regulator is led and largely staffed by, holders of hunting licences.
It is curious, while other state governments have called for inquiries into how hunters obtained positions in government wildlife management departments, in Victoria, taxpayers are expected to pay for their salaries.
GMA may not be the only pro-hunting department unwittingly funded by Victorian taxpayers. Stand by.
*According to a Department of Sustainability & Environment report, each ammunition cartridge holds 30-45g of lead. Multiply 30g by the average number of 175,000 shot quail each year in Victoria (GMA harvest estimates) and one gets a staggering 5 tonnes of lead potentially pumped into Victorian (including food-producing) environments each season - without even adding in the lead deposited by missed shots. Lead is highly toxic. A 2018 CSIRO study was scathing of Australia’s failure to take seriously the risks to humans, animals and the environment from lead ammunition.
"Bully Boys" in Action?
Meanwhile, in what many view as typical intimidatory tactics, some hunt clubs have taken aim at RSPCA Victoria and Indigenous Elders who spoke out against duck shooting recently.
One club took a shot at Indigenous Elders for raising concerns about lead, but failed to admit that lead is still used legally in quail shooting and illegally in duck shooting as reported in the papers almost every shooting season. This same club says “if hunters have no benefit to preserve wetlands then ecosystems will cease to exist”. What an interesting take on "preservation". We hope the government realises there are numerous local landcare and field naturalist groups who would (and already do) undertake true conservation work, (without killing native birds and peppering our ecosystems with plastic ammo cases and toxic lead), and without millions of dollars in government funding.
And, clearly upset that RSPCA would dare speak out against the cruelty involved in duck shooting (as most Victorians expect it to), Sporting Shooters in their online mag, seemingly went against their own association rules and directed fire at RSPCA staff. The reality is at least one in four of the tens of thousands of birds hit in duck shooting each year are not killed outright, but flap away wounded. In fact, GMA put it at 1 in 3. If this sort of cruelty happened in an abattoir it would be shut down.
It doesn’t seem to dawn on leaders of these shooter clubs that most of their members neither participate in nor agree with, bird shooting.
Voters Deserve Representation.
While yet more polls show most Victorians want this cruel minority choice of recreation banned, the Victorian government does not appear to have the strength to follow the lead of other states and stop it.
With upcoming elections, we will be ensuring MPs are held to account for their handling of our finite wildlife and habitats, and regional residents’ rights.
Does your MP represent you? If you haven’t already, please fill in our survey here and watch this space!
Further Parliamentary Questions on Notice (QONS) posed to relevant Ministerial offices this month:
Given EPA's recent warning on noise pollution from gas-guns, what warnings and associated restrictions have been issued about noise pollution from duck shooters' shotguns (which emit higher decibel levels)?
What is the total number of public waterways (wetlands, lakes, creeks, streams, rivers, reservoirs etc) open to duck shooting, compared to the number of wetland sanctuaries where waterbirds (and the public) are free from gunfire?
Given one in four Victorians now live in regional areas and more visitors than ever are travelling to the regions, when will health and safety risk assessments (to do with recreational shooting in public areas) be conducted?
We will update our website soon to reflect all QONs.
More of your letters - in papers from Swan Hill Guardian to Herald Sun
And in Wangaratta here.
For more media articles, see our website
Picture courtesy Terra Mater Wildlife Shelter.