Tack­ling the is­sues

The start to Vic­to­rian Duck Sea­son un­der­mined the rep­u­ta­tion of hunters and Field & Game Aus­tralia has been proac­tive in mak­ing sure the il­le­gal and un­eth­i­cal ac­tions of a few do not jeop­ar­dise our great hunt­ing tra­di­tion.

Field and Game - - TACKLING THE ISSUES -

FGA was on the ground near Kerang as events un­folded on open­ing week­end and we took im­me­di­ate ac­tion, both pub­licly and be­hind the scenes. Cru­cially, FGA has taken a lead­er­ship role in ad­dress­ing those is­sues.

We quickly or­gan­ised a sum­mit to draw on the ex­pe­ri­ence and wis­dom of our mem­bers and other lead­ers in the hunt­ing com­mu­nity. The aim was to ex­plore the root causes of il­le­gal hunt­ing, the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of those ac­tions, and to iden­tify a way forward, to pro­vide a proac­tive re­sponse and pro­tect the rep­u­ta­tion of law-abid­ing hunters and the long-term fu­ture of duck hunt­ing.

The im­por­tance of the ac­tions we are tak­ing can­not be un­der­es­ti­mated.

What oc­curred on the Marshes was front of mind when Vic­to­rian Min­is­ter for En­ergy, En­vi­ron­ment and Cli­mate Change Lily D’am­bro­sio wrote to FGA chair­man Rob Tre­ble in early May in re­sponse to cor­re­spon­dence about wet­land clo­sure prin­ci­ples. “Min­is­ter Pul­ford, the GMA and I are very dis­ap­pointed that threat­ened and non-game species, in­clud­ing freck­led and blue-billed ducks, were il­le­gally shot at the Koorangie SGR wet­land com­plex over the open­ing week­end, de­spite strong com­pli­ance pres­ence. The Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment will not tol­er­ate un­law­ful and un­eth­i­cal duck-hunt­ing be­hav­iour,” the Min­is­ter wrote.

FGA has since met with Min­is­ter Pul­ford to de­liver the out­comes of the sum­mit, which iden­ti­fied seven ar­eas of fo­cus.

Trust and Cred­i­bil­ity

The ac­tions of a few have tar­nished the rep­u­ta­tion and cred­i­bil­ity of many, and FGA has con­tin­ued to en­gage with mul­ti­ple agen­cies and gov­ern­ment to en­sure hunters and their in­ter­ests are rep­re­sented.

We have al­ready seen the loss of trust in ef­fect, with agen­cies mov­ing to a highly pre­cau­tion­ary ap­proach, and in cor­re­spon­dence from other Min­is­ters in the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment.

FGA helped spread a cau­tion­ary

mes­sage about the pres­ence of Aus­tralasian bit­tern at Lake Cullen to­wards the end of the sea­son, a bet­ter out­come than 2016 when John­son Swamp SGR was closed due to the pres­ence of bit­tern.

FGA has been work­ing hard since then to ar­gue against this ‘ex­treme cau­tion’ be­com­ing the pol­icy norm but il­le­gal and un­eth­i­cal hunt­ing makes it more dif­fi­cult.

Hunt­ing con­tin­ued at Lake Cullen with­out in­ci­dent but trust and cred­i­bil­ity re­mains a cru­cial el­e­ment to main­tain hunter ac­cess in fu­ture when pro­tected and/or non-game species are present on a wet­land.

Loss of Ac­cess to Pub­lic Land

One di­rect re­sult of the dam­age to trust and cred­i­bil­ity fol­low­ing on from the ac­tions of a few is the loss of ac­cess to pub­lic land for hunt­ing. The ac­tions of these few have had a di­rect im­pact on many. FGA views these clo­sures as sim­i­lar to clos­ing the Hume Free­way to all traf­fic be­cause of one drink-driver: an ex­treme re­ac­tion.

In the ab­sence of mean­ing­ful en­force­ment, how­ever, the loss of trust will con­tinue to im­pact on all hunters.

En­force­ment Ef­forts

A va­ri­ety of rea­sons and re­stric­tions are ham­per­ing the abil­ity for en­force­ment re­sources to be ef­fec­tive.

In 2015, we wrote to the Game Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity about the con­cen­tra­tion of tax­payer-funded re­sources being used mainly for crowd con­trol of anti-hunt­ing ac­tivists, and this year we ob­served, once again, en­force­ment fo­cused away from mon­i­tor­ing hunt­ing ac­tiv­ity.

FGA con­tin­ues to ad­vo­cate for a crit­i­cal re­view of the ef­fec­tive­ness of ex­ist­ing en­force­ment meth­ods and im­prov­ing the mon­i­tor­ing of hunters.

Ed­u­ca­tion

Ed­u­ca­tion is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent, di­rectly linked with the reg­u­la­tion and en­force­ment of responsible hunt­ing. How do new hunters learn about hunt­ing with re­spect, or their eth­i­cal obli­ga­tions while hunt­ing? FGA has iden­ti­fied op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­cor­po­rate hunter ed­u­ca­tion as part of the ac­cred­i­ta­tion and li­cens­ing process that all law­ful hunters go through. Ed­u­ca­tion is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of reg­u­la­tion and we be­lieve the GMA has a sig­nif­i­cant role to play.

Cul­ture and Di­ver­sity

The hunt­ing com­mu­nity is di­verse, with mem­bers from many cultural back­grounds.

While we cel­e­brate this di­ver­sity, it also presents chal­lenges. Some groups may hold dif­fer­ent at­ti­tudes to hunt­ing due to their back­ground, or there may be a lan­guage bar­rier, which makes it dif­fi­cult to en­gage. There are also changes in the way some hunt­ing is un­der­taken (in NSW it’s for crop pro­tec­tion, while in Vic­to­ria, South Aus­tralia, Tas­ma­nia and North­ern Ter­ri­tory, we have reg­u­lated sea­sons) and does this con­trib­ute to the cul­ture within which in­di­vid­u­als make de­ci­sions while hunt­ing?

FGA, as the pre­mier duck hunt­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion in Aus­tralia, has iden­ti­fied some ar­eas where we can do more, but with so many dif­fer­ent cul­tures and back­grounds, mul­ti­ple and com­plex so­lu­tions are nec­es­sary to im­prove out­comes for hunt­ing.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Set­ting Ex­pec­ta­tions

FGA will con­tinue to com­mu­ni­cate the pos­i­tive sto­ries around hunt­ing: the sus­tain­able, eth­i­cal harvest of amaz­ing wild food, the en­joy­ment of our beau­ti­ful wet­land habi­tats, and spend­ing time with fam­ily and friends, con­nect­ing with na­ture.

For the ma­jor­ity of hunters, this is not news, it’s a mat­ter of fact, and the value placed on the ex­pe­ri­ence of hunt­ing wild food and shar­ing it with fam­ily and friends, is what drives our mem­bers to act re­spon­si­bly, hunt eth­i­cally and con­tinue to give back through con­ser­va­tion.

The fail­ure of some to re­trieve shot game birds im­pacts on the per­cep­tion of responsible hunt­ing and sus­tain­able harvest.

FGA will also con­tinue to com­mu­ni­cate the ex­pec­ta­tions around hunt­ing and en­cour­ages responsible hunters to act as lead­ers among the com­mu­nity.

Risk Man­age­ment

One ma­jor is­sue that emerged from our sum­mit was that of man­ag­ing risks. FGA has been ad­vo­cat­ing for some time that a more flex­i­ble, adapt­able ap­proach is needed.

We’ve seen a bit of im­prove­ment this sea­son, with Lake Lin­lith­gow sim­ply hav­ing mo­tor­boat use re­stricted with lit­tle or no prac­ti­cal im­pact on hunt­ing ef­fort. How­ever, we are still see­ing de­ci­sions made around pub­lic land where there are only two choices con­sid­ered: keep the land open or close it com­pletely.

FGA takes is­sue with this ap­proach as a com­plete clo­sure re­moves op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn. If we’re able to learn more about how dif­fer­ent non-game birds re­act when hunt­ing oc­curs around them, we’ll be bet­ter able to make in­formed de­ci­sions in fu­ture.

As you can see from these seven ar­eas of fo­cus, there’s a lot of work to do, and while the open­ing week­end shook up the hunt­ing com­mu­nity, we’ve had a re­ally strong re­sponse from our mem­bers. We’ve iden­ti­fied is­sues that will af­fect hunt­ing in the years to come and we are work­ing hard to pro­tect it.

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