RSPCA Victoria disappointed in last minute changes to duck hunting season arrangements

RSPCA Victoria is disappointed by the announcement to ease restrictions to the 2021 duck hunting season based on initial data released from a new aerial pilot survey estimating the total population of ducks in Victoria.

Modifications have been made to the 2021 duck hunting season after data was released today from a pilot survey conducted by the Game Management Authority (GMA) and the Arthur Rylah Institute in November 2020.

The pilot survey was a trial established by the GMA to estimate the state-wide abundance of game duck species to develop an adaptive harvest management framework.

Changes include increasing the bag limit (number of birds able to be shot per day per hunter) from two to five ducks and removing the geographic restrictions that limited where Chestnut Teal and Grey Teal species can be hunted.

“We are very concerned that data from a trial pilot survey has been used to make changes to restrictions imposed on this year’s season. Particularly considering the pilot’s own report outlines several recommendations for changes, modifications, and improvements to the survey’s methodology. The need for these modifications suggests that the survey data is not as rigorous as it could be” says Dr Liz Walker, CEO of RSPCA Victoria.

“It is truly disheartening to see that this pilot program has overridden the previous decision to heavily restrict the season based on genuine concerns for duck species abundance in Victoria.

“RSPCA Victoria believes duck hunting is inherently cruel and causes unnecessary pain, suffering, injury and death. We remain very concerned at the high wounding rate and lack of knowledge on how to effectively dispatch a downed duck. Australian studies show approximately 26% of birds shot with a shotgun will be wounded or maimed. The likely outcome for wounded, maimed or crippled birds is a slow and painful death.

“Comparing this wounding rate of 26% with the reported total harvest figure of 238,666 from the 2019 season (as the 2020 season was impacted by COVID-19), we estimate that over 62,000 ducks were wounded and not killed outright in the 2019 season,” said Dr Walker.

The Aerial Survey of Wetland Birds in Eastern Australia, which first began in 1983, provides the most valuable long-term objective data about waterbird abundance in Australia. In 2020, the survey continued to show long-term significant declines in the breeding index, total abundance and wetland area index. Breeding abundance and breeding species richness had also decreased considerably compared with the previous year, with only three species recorded breeding.

Duck hunting is banned in all Australian states and territories except South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Victoria. RSPCA Victoria would like to see duck hunting banned in Victoria due to the inevitable pain and suffering caused.

The Victorian Government announced that the duck hunting season will begin on Wednesday 26 May, 2021 and last 20 days.

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