GMA under fire

GMA under fire

Gunshots heard from 8am this morning signalled the opening of the 2021 duck hunting season.
But this year’s season has been slashed, including cuts to hours, bag numbers and days, and needless to say hunters aren’t happy.
Hunters believe the Game Management Authority (GMA), responsible for the regulation of game hunting in Victoria, is on a political course to restrict duck hunting, regardless of scientific evidence.
Field and Game Australia (FGA), a conservation, hunting and clay target shooting organisation, requested a report to review the conclusions reached by GMA in its duck season 2021 recommendations document, which was used to brief the minister.
The report is damning of the GMA, in part concluding it used a “flawed decision-making process” committing itself to a “triple-bottom line strategy” with “no clear process for prioritisation”, meaning hard scientific data could be ignored in favour of an ideological position.
Written by Grahame Webb, PhD, DSc, hc, FRZS, of Wildlife Management International (WMI), it states FGA should be “rightly concerned” and the “veiled threat about whether duck hunting may not continue in Victoria should be taken seriously”.
In part it reads the “GMA has done nothing more than ‘cherry-pick’ information that supports its political position, and either ignore completely or cast doubt on any evidence to the contrary”.
Mr Webb also reports it is “very clear GMA is opposed to duck hunting” and it is unclear how long GMA had been “providing obvious mis-information to the minister”.
It also states of particular concern, GMA appear not to have consulted with Victoria’s own scientific authority on waterbirds, the Arthur Rylah Institute, largely funded by government.
Though not great supporters of duck hunting the organisation pursued an Adaptive Harvest Model 2019, to establish an objective and scientifically sound mechanism for seasonal hunting regulations.
The 2020 season ran for just a fortnight before COVID restrictions took hold and this year duck hunting runs from May 26 to June 14, giving Victorian hunters just 20 days of duck hunting.
Traditionally the Wildlife (Game) Regulations 2012 allow for the season opening to occur on the third Saturday in March (a weekend rather than mid-week); a daily bag limit of 10 ducks a day; a hunting season of 87 days; a 12-hour hunting window per day and a start time of 6am.
Originally GMA limited this season’s bag number to two but more recently increased that to five.
Local FGA members like Bairnsdale FGA conservation and hunting officer, David Young, say they do the right thing during the year, over time implementing 400 duck nesting boxes in local rivers, swamps and reserves, planting trees and conducting pest control of foxes and rabbits.
Mr Young has also placed signs around the Morass and Jones Bay State Game Reserve, as he has done for years, advising the public of duck hunting season, as no government body does so.
“We’re not happy with the GMA or the government,” Mr Young said.
“They’re bowing to pressure from animal rights groups.
“We would like it back to 10 ducks for opening day, a lot of people travel for opening day and they put money into country towns, there are millions spent.
“It’s not good for the local economy or for a lot of people.”
Field and Game formed in Gippsland in 1958 and according to Mr Young could see the need to protect wetlands. Field and Game was involved in recommending to government that hunting licence money be used to acquire wetlands for protection as State Game Reserves.
Macleod Morass is a State Game Reserve, purchased in the 1960s with hunters’ licence monies, which Mr Young says is well populated by migratory ducks.
“There are plenty of ducks about, especially with the rain we’ve had, there are a lot of ducks around farm dams and particularly around the Gippsland Lakes and rivers,” Mr Young said.
“I think a lot of farmers would like to see an increased bag limit especially on wood ducks as they can cause a lot of damage to dams and pasture.
“We as hunters utilise our ducks, we shoot what we can eat. With a short season we may need to place some in the freezer.”
The 2021 duck hunting season will run until Monday, June 14, half an hour after sunset.

IMAGE: Bairnsdale Field and Game conservation and hunting officer, David Young, has placed signs around MacLeod Morass advising the public of duck hunting season, which opened at 8am today. Mr Young and his retriever, Chloe, were planning to paddle out to a duck hide in the Morass for the season opening. K151-4804


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