Field and Game Australia has labelled changes to this year’s duck hunting season, including a shorter season and lower daily bag limit, as ‘‘flawed’’ and ‘‘secretive’’.
The organisation said the Victorian Government lacked transparency around the decision and should refund hunters a portion of their fees.
The changes, announced by the Game Management Authority on Friday, will see the season reduced from its usual 12 weeks to nine weeks, with hunters restricted to four game ducks a day on the opening weekend and a five-game-duck-a-day bag limit for the remainder of the season.
GMA attributed the changes to ‘‘prevailing and persistent’’ dry conditions, which had seen reduced duck numbers, breeding and wetland habitat across the state.
‘‘As a result, the GMA advised the Victorian Government that a modified season was necessary to reduce the seasonal harvest, to ensure duck hunting is conducted responsibly and duck numbers remain sustainable,’’ it said.
Field and Game chief executive officer Richard Light hit back at the assessment and said there was a ‘‘complete absence of quality science’’ to support the changes and demanded an explanation for the rationale behind the decision.
‘‘We call for the Andrews Government to refund all duck hunting licence holders 62.5 per cent of their current licence fees in line with the announced season modifications,’’ he said.
‘‘It is only fair that the government reduce the fee in line with the reduced season.’’
Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said she appreciated duck hunting was a ‘‘divisive issue’’.
‘‘I suspect there will be duck hunters that will not be happy that the season is reduced and not be happy with the reduction in bag limits ... but the GMA have taken a considered approach,’’ Ms Symes said.
‘‘If the conditions worsen there are opportunities to look at specific wetlands and apply restrictions if that’s identified (as a necessary step).’’
The changes to duck season came as Ms Symes announced a funding boost for GMA, which will receive an extra $6million over four years to help fund a 30 per cent increase in GMA staff to improve enforcement and stakeholder engagement, increased research capacity, education campaigns and a new game licensing system.
Hunting on the opening weekend of the 2019 season will again start at 9am on the Saturday and 8am on the Sunday across the whole of Victoria as part of a two-year trial.
For the rest of the season, hunting times will revert to the standard period of 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.
Hunting blue-winged shoveler will be prohibited.
GMA said hunters should ensure they comply with laws introduced last year requiring them to immediately retrieve all game ducks they shoot and to at least salvage the breast meat.
Coalition Against Duck Shooting campaign director Laurie Levy said ducks were becoming ‘‘cannon fodder ... just so a dwindling number of Victorian duck shooters can get their kicks’’.
■The 2019 duck hunting season will run from Saturday, March 16 to Sunday, May 19.