Duck season starts with war of words

By Alana Christensen on March 29, 2017
  • Duck season starts with war of words

    Anti duck hunting activists leave ducks and a swan shot by hunters on the steps outside the office of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, at Treasury Place in Melbourne. (AAP Image/Mal Fairclough)

Hunt protests staged

Anti-duck-hunting groups have continued the fight to ban duck hunting, with protests staged across the state as the duck season wrapped up its first week, while the head of Field and Game Australia says he totally disagrees with the protesters’ arguments.

Coalition Against Duck Shooting campaign director Laurie Levy labelled the start of the duck hunting season ‘‘a bloody massacre’’, calling it worse than the Box Flat bird massacre near Boort in 2013 that saw 800 birds shot and abandoned.

The coalition, which has staged several protests since the launch of the season, delivered boxes of dead ducks to the offices of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews last week.

‘‘We laid out 810 water birds including 68 freckled ducks which are a threatened species that were illegally shot, and 21 threatened blue billed ducks,’’ Mr Levy said.

The group also laid out more than 400 ducks at the electoral office of agriculture minister Jaala Pulford in Ballarat last week, as it continued its calls for the Victorian Government to ban duck hunting.

‘‘There’s not a single department in the government that looks after waterbirds,’’ Mr Levy said.

‘‘We’ll be fighting this issue until duck hunting comes to an end.’’

Mr Levy, who was protesting at wetlands in Kerang on the first day of the season, said a number of hunters started shooting earlier than the official season opening time.

‘‘They started shooting 20 minutes early and they did it in front of the police and the Game Management Authority compliance officers,’’ he said.

‘‘[They] couldn’t restrain themselves and they went berserk out there, and it was just a bloody massacre.’’

Mr Levy said he went to rescue a bird that had been shot and was promptly arrested.

‘‘I went in just on the opening time to rescue a wounded bird that had been shot before the opening time, and was arrested and fined about $930 and ordered off the wetlands for the whole season,’’ he said.

Field and Game Australia chairman Robert Treble said he was disappointed that some hunters began shooting before the starting time.

‘‘It’s just disappointing. You can wait all year, why can’t you just wait for the legal time?’’ he said.

‘‘Field and Game Australia does not condone illegal and unethical behaviour. It’s unfortunate that the actions of a few tarnish the reputations of many.’’

Mr Treble said overall it was a good start to the season and hunters were happy, but he was disappointed resources had to be used to manage protesters.

‘‘There’s rules and there’s legislation which [protesters] make an active choice to break,’’ he said.

‘‘I completely disagree with their argument [to ban duck hunting], hunting is a cultural tradition to many. I eat the game I hunt, it is no different to fishing.’’

Mr Treble said the start of the duck hunting season meant a ‘‘terrific economic boom’’ for regional Victoria, with hunters spending money in regional towns, yet Mr Levy said the claims were ‘‘a load of spin’’.

‘‘I think the minister is using that as a spin line to make regional communities think they are earning money from duck hunting,’’ he said.

Mr Treble said authorities would be working hard to educate hunters about their responsibilities throughout the remainder of the season, which closes on Monday, June 12.

Pullford rejects call to resign

Agriculture minister Jaala Pulford has hit back at calls for her resignation over the events in Kerang during the opening weekend of the duck hunting season, calling duck hunting ‘‘a legitimate recreation activity’’.

According to Coalition Against Duck Shooting campaign director Laurie Levy, more than 1200 ducks were killed at the wetland during the opening weekend, including dozens of threatened birds.

Mr Levy said Ms Pulford should accept responsibility for the carnage and resign as it ‘‘would be the honourable thing to do’’.

However Ms Pulford brushed off the request.

‘‘We respect the fact that many people have deeply held and divergent views about duck hunting. However, the government recognises that hunting is a legitimate recreational activity, provided the rules are followed,’’ she said.

‘‘There is no excuse for not knowing the law, or for hunting in unethical, unsustainable and inhumane ways.’’

The coalition delivered more than 400 ducks to Ms Pulford’s electoral office in Ballarat last week and said she would be remembered for ‘‘presiding over Victoria’s largest massacre of native waterbirds’’.

Koorangie Game Reserve closed

Koorangie Game Reserve, west of Kerang, will be closed to duck hunters for the remainder of the season, following the illegal shooting of at least 75 freckled ducks and 22 blue-billed ducks during the opening weekend of the duck hunting season.

Game Management Authority chief executive officer Greg Hyams said the decision came following a survey of the wetlands that found significant numbers of freckled duck and blue-billed duck there.

‘‘Given that at least 75 freckled duck and 22 blue-billed duck were illegally destroyed at this wetland complex over the opening weekend, the loss of any of these threatened birds would be unacceptable,’’ Mr Hyams said.

‘‘Hunters are reminded to check for any closures before they depart for their hunt by visiting the GMA website.’’

The wetlands at Lake Natimuk and Natimuk Creek Lake Reserve, Lake Muirhead State Game Reserve, Big Reedy Lagoon State Game Reserve and the western half of Tower Hill State Game Reserve are also closed for the season.

‘‘Government officials will continue to monitor closed wetlands throughout the season,’’ Mr Hyams said.

‘‘These wetlands may be re-opened to hunting if circumstances change and the number of threatened birds reduces or they move to other locations.’’

By Alana Christensen on March 29, 2017

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