Shots still be­ing fired

The start to the 2018 Vic­to­rian Duck Sea­son has demon­strated clearly that hun­ters abide by the reg­u­la­tions and en­deav­our to hunt sus­tain­ably and hu­manely, but that hasn’t stopped the at­tacks.

Field and Game - - NEWS -

The Vic­to­rian Game Man­age­ment Au­thor­ity (GMA) counted 2100 hun­ters on the 38 Vic­to­rian wet­lands where en­force­ment of­fi­cers were present dur­ing the open­ing week­end.

For the first time, a con­trac­tor was brought in to op­er­ate high-end drones over pop­u­lar wet­lands in the Kerang re­gion. The drones are ca­pa­ble of fly­ing at a height of two or three kilo­me­tres and still check if a hunter has shaved.

The GMA con­firmed post-open­ing that the only footage be­ing used to in­ves­ti­gate an of­fence is of a per­son (pre­sum­ably a pro­tester) in­ter­fer­ing with a hunter.

Lake Cullen and Lake El­iz­a­beth were the fo­cus of ac­tiv­ity with 170 pro­test­ers and height­ened en­force­ment to go with the new open­ing times and reg­u­la­tions.

The GMA re­ported no early shoot­ing at any of the wet­lands where en­force­ment was present, in­clud­ing Lake Cullen. Hardly sur­pris­ing given that barely a shot was fired on open­ing morn­ing.

That did not stop Sue Pen­nicuik, the Greens Up­per House mem­ber for South­ern Metropoli­tan us­ing the priv­i­lege of Ques­tion Time in the Vic­to­rian Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil to put her take on the record.

“In the last sit­ting week I asked you about the num­ber of com­pli­ance of­fi­cers and po­lice that would be de­ployed across Vic­to­ria’s wet­lands for the open­ing of the duck shoot­ing sea­son given the mas­sacre of birds at Koorangie marshes last year and the re­lease of the Pe­ga­sus re­port, which stated that it is im­pos­si­ble to po­lice duck shoot­ing across the wet­lands. In a writ­ten re­sponse to me you stated that this year duck hun­ters are on no­tice and that that type of be­hav­iour will not be tol­er­ated. How­ever, there are wide­spread re­ports of il­le­gal be­hav­iour by duck hun­ters across Vic­to­ria, in­clud­ing bags of ducks be­ing found dumped on the road; shoot­ers not re­triev­ing birds, which I wit­nessed my­self at Lake Cullen; shoot­ing too early and shoot­ing too late af­ter dark; and shoot­ing from mov­ing boats. My ques­tion, Min­is­ter, is: how is the gov­ern­ment go­ing to pre­vent this be­hav­iour for the re­main­der of the sea­son?”

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Jaala Pul­ford con­firmed there were no re­ports of shoot­ing early and that 20 hun­ters were found in breach of reg­u­la­tions and many were what would be con­sid­ered “mi­nor of­fences”; she gave the fol­low­ing break­down:

“As I in­di­cated, there were no re­ports of hun­ters shoot­ing early. Two hun­ters will re­ceive in­fringe­ment no­tices for fail­ing to make rea­son­able at­tempts to re­trieve a downed bird, and a fur­ther three hun­ters re­ceive a writ­ten warn­ing for fail­ing to com­ply. Two peo­ple will be pros­e­cuted for tak­ing pro­tected wildlife; the firearms of one of those hun­ters were seized. A group of three hun­ters will be pros­e­cuted for hunt­ing in a closed area; that was on Sun­day, March 18, and all three had their firearms seized. There were some other

hunt­ing of­fences which we would de­scribe as, rel­a­tive to the oth­ers, mi­nor of­fences: one for hunt­ing from a mov­ing boat, one for some­body not hav­ing their game li­cence, one for pos­ses­sion of toxic shot on a state game re­serve, one in­stance of fail­ing to re­tain a fully feath­ered wing and one of hunt­ing with toxic shot. There were some writ­ten warn­ings for some other mat­ters: fail­ing to kill on re­cov­ery, pos­ses­sion of toxic shot, hunt­ing from a mov­ing boat and fail­ure to re­tain a fully feath­ered wing — one in­stance of each.”

Still, the Greens MP pressed on: “You can­not be look­ing very hard if you have not heard of any re­ports of early shoot­ing, be­cause they are pretty wide­spread, but I am happy to fur­nish you with that and the other re­ports of be­hav­iour. I have to say that my per­sonal ob­ser­va­tion at Lake Cullen was that on the breaches that I saw, we ac­tu­ally had to en­cour­age the GMA of­fi­cers to do some­thing about it, in­clud­ing one duck which ap­peared to have been shot by a ri­fle and which I will be fol­low­ing up with you.”

The Min­is­ters of­fice con­firmed more than a week later that no fur­ther in­for­ma­tion had been pro­vided.

The ex­change is typ­i­cal of the pub­lic de­bate over duck hunt­ing, where the ev­i­dence, in this case, al­most uni­ver­sal com­pli­ance with hunt­ing reg­u­la­tions, is ig­nored be­cause it does not help the an­ti­hunt­ing cause.

Birds Aus­tralia, which once ac­cepted the sus­tain­able use of wildlife but now op­poses duck hunt­ing as a mat­ter of pol­icy, con­tin­ues to en­gage as a key stake­holder, par­tic­u­larly around wet­land clo­sures.

We had the bizarre case of the west­ern side of Hird Swamp State Game Re­serve be­ing closed on open­ing week­end to min­imise dis­tur­bance to Aus­tralasian bit­tern. The swamp opened to hunt­ing on the Mon­day morn­ing, so does that mean the bit­tern only use it as a week­ender?

BA’S April news­let­ter had duck hunt­ing as the lead, stat­ing un­am­bigu­ously: “Na­tive wa­ter­fowl are still killed in duck shoot­ing sea­sons in Vic­to­ria, SA and Tas­ma­nia. Birdlife Aus­tralia has suc­cess­fully en­sured 12 Vic­to­rian wet­lands are closed to hunt­ing, but our ul­ti­mate aim is to have the en­tire sea­son banned.”

This would ap­pear to in­di­cate BA’S sole goal in par­tic­i­pat­ing in clo­sure dis­cus­sions is to stop hunt­ing where it can, and ev­ery­where if pos­si­ble. Is this a cred­i­ble start­ing point for what should be an ev­i­dence-based process?

You can­not be look­ing very hard if you have not heard of any re­ports of early shoot­ing ... Sue Pen­nicuik, the Greens Up­per House mem­ber for South­ern Metropoli­tan

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