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Duck hunters handed shorter season as dry conditions impacts bird numbers

Victoria’s hunting regulator has shortened this year’s season from 12 to nine weeks due to dry conditions and reduced bird numbers.

The Game Management Authority (GMA) said bag limits have been cut back and the blue-winged shoveler will again be off limits to shooters.

“There was some concerns about the long-term impact of the dry conditions on duck populations, so we just wanted to make sure hunting’s impact wasn’t going to threaten the sustainability of the species,” the GMA’s Graeme Ford said.

Mr Ford said he was not surprised to receive criticism over the changes from both sides of the debate and assured the public that some wetlands will close if any at-risk species need further protection.

“This is not unusual to be a modified season,” he said.

He said since 1995, 15 out of 25 seasons had been restricted and four were cancelled.

Calls to ban duck hunting

The RSCPA has again called for the GMA to go one step further and scrap duck hunting altogether.

Dr Liz Walker has asked the Victorian Government to end hunting because of declining duck numbers and for animal cruelty reasons.

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RSCPA Victoria said it will be seeking an urgent meeting with government ministers to prevent the season from going ahead.

Last year, the GMA was under scrutiny over its inability to control some hunters who ignored the rules.

This month the Victorian Government announced more funding for GMA to increase staff and improve enforcement.

Laws were also introduced last year for shooters to make efforts to retrieve shot birds immediately.

Field and Game Australia has expressed disappointment about this season’s changes after it made a submission to the regulator about bag limits.

“It’s widely accepted that the process around the season setting is lacking the science,” Richard Light said.

The national group representing game shooters has complained about the secretive process which underpins Victoria’s season.

Field and Game has also suggested hunting season setting operations are flawed.

The GMA said the decision was based on last year’s data collections, long-term water bird surveys and climate conditions.

The weather conditions across eastern Australia have been particularly dry and the GMA said that has led to less breeding.

Country tourism at risk

Every year, shooters have travelled to the state’s wetlands and visited small country towns which rely on their tourism.

Mr Light said businesses in these Victorian towns will suffer with less visitors during the shorter season.

“It’s really just going to be impacting struggling regional economies and centres by reducing the season length,” he said.

The Loddon Shire Mayor from a small municipality in northern Victoria agreed local businesses need the income.

“I know a lot of the campers come and set up for a weekend or a week at a time,” Councillor Cheryl McKinnon said.

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Councillor McKinnon said businesses will feel the pinch from not having shooters visiting over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June.

“What I would like to do is to encourage all the people who normally come hunting in the last part of the season to come up anyway,” she said.

She said for many shooters, every season was a family tradition and her shire will continue to encourage duck hunting in communities like Boort.

“It is a legal activity supported by the state and we are certainly happy to continue to cater for the hunting fraternity within Loddon shire,” Councillor McKinnon said.

The duck shooting season will begin in mid-March and end on May 19.

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