Another long weekend in beautiful rural Victoria, marred by gunfire as our struggling native birdlife were blasted from the sky, marks the end of our state's annual recreational bird shooting season.
Photo Blue-billed Duck, by Nalini Scarfe
It’s the same each year. Residents awoken to gunfire blasts from before daylight…children and animals upset…wounded birds flapping through backyards and daily life including working from home, utterly disrupted.
Many families around the state have given up inviting friends to the country during these distressing times which usually span three long months including Easter. This is an example of the tourists - who would gladly spend in our cafes, shops and wineries – whom our towns are missing due to duck shooting.
This season was generally reported to be a quieter one. Maybe, despite assurances from their hunting clubs that there were plenty of birds to shoot, shooters could see for themselves this was not the case.
This year’s onslaught of gunfire and falling birds co-incided with the spotlight on Victoria’s appalling rate of species loss into which there is now a parliamentary inquiry.
Is it really surprising we have a biodiversity problem when hunters are making recommendations about the fate of our wildlife?
The “independent” regulator led by duck shooters, again put forth a recommendation to hold a bird shooting season this year despite the worst environmental conditions ever recorded and a continued significant long term decline in waterbird numbers.
In fact their forwarding key points failed to mention some rather key facts;
that wetlands indices - directly related to waterbird abundance – were the lowest ever recorded since surveys began over 37 years ago.
that the Murray Darling basin – a key breeding ground – had experienced its worst 2-3 year drought in 120 years.
that there was little if any breeding with swans and ibis responsible for 97% of what little there was.
that “harvest” numbers are hardly reliable and do not include birds shot and left behind.
that there is no data recorded for the number of protected species shot.
that it is not possible to monitor more than a tiny fraction of areas where shooting is allowed, (of which there are so many that most are not signposted nor mapped.)
that no social or economic studies as to the impacts of duck shooting on communities had been carried out but independent economic reports showing duck shooting is detrimental and complaints from the community, had been disregarded.
that the percentage of duck shooters has continued to decline while professional public polls had been carried out which showed majority of Victorians – country and city – opposed duck shooting.
If sustainability was at all on the agenda, this year’s season should not have gone ahead.
Photo Freckled Duck, by Eleanor Dilley
But duck shooting lobbies have persisted in pushing their recreation, seemingly oblivious to the rural residents, businesses and birdlife they are destroying.
And the Victorian Premier has persisted in pandering to them when he could instead uphold his Party’s commitment to safety and animal welfare and differentiate from his opposition.
For example, on the back of the “Sports Rorts” saga, Bridget McKenzie - Nationals MP and keen member of hunting clubs – again took the chance to promote her own choice of recreation in an article about water flows to benefit duck shooters recently. In appalling disregard to local residents, it was done in the very community that only weeks earlier had requested the area be protected.
Many would suggest Ms McKenzie ought stay put in her city residence until she can spare the time to speak with the regional locals who clean up the ammunition cartridges and injured birds after her shooting buddies leave. These locals could have enlightened her as to social and economic impacts of duck shooting.
At a time when our rural towns are gasping for economic relief, we can’t ignore that non shooting areas are benefitting from year round tourism.
A single wetland area near Benalla where they shoot birds with cameras sees 66,000 visitors a year - more than double the entire number of duck shooters in all Victoria. Yea Wetlands is another success story, growing in popularity for walkers, (walking is #1 on Australia’s Top 20 Sports while hunting didn’t rate) said to be attracting just on 30,000 a year– again more than the total number of duck shooters across all Victoria.
Along with populations of our native waterbirds, many unique to our country, duck shooting is dying.
But a small number of duck shooters can cause significant damage and every year the incidences of non-compliance, likely the tip of the iceberg given most areas are not monitored, make headlines.
There’s a better way for our waterways. Isn’t it time the Premier “got it done”, for all Victorians?
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