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Wetlands closures ‘manifestly unjust’

Wetlands closures ‘manifestly unjust’

SSAA Victoria’s duck hunters see the closure of nine of the State’s wetlands to duck hunting this year as manifestly unjust.

The Game Management Authority announced yesterday that nine wetlands will be closed with restrictions applying to another four ahead of the opening of the 2018 Duck Season this Saturday.

Game Management Authority (GMA) CEO Greg Hyams said closing wetlands during duck season ensures that threatened species are protected.

“Through closing wetlands where appropriate and paying close attention to bird numbers we are able to ensure that rare and threatened species are protected. This year, we will have significant numbers of staff on the ground,” Mr Hyams said.

“Government officials will monitor the closed wetlands throughout the season. If the reason for the closure no longer exists, they will be recommended to be reopened for hunting.”

SSAA Victoria Hunting Development Manager, David Laird said the closures were extremely disappointing for hunters who had worked to create wetland reserves.

“We see these closures as manifestly unjust,” he said.

“If it wasn’t for hunters driving the establishment of the State Game Reserve system there would be very little habitat left for all waterbird species in Victoria.

“Now hunters are being excluded from areas that they effectively saved from destruction and turned into places where non-game species have thrived.

“We understand the need to close a wetland in exceptional circumstances, but it has become standard procedure as a knee jerk reaction to the poor behaviour of the few.

“A better outcome would be to properly resource the Game Management Authority to properly police the regulations already in place.”

He said game managers operating on a principle of precaution now seem to see closures as necessary in almost every instance where a protected species is seen on a wetland.

“SSAA Victoria has been calling on the GMA and government for effective enforcement to weed out the individuals involved with duck hunting who do the wrong thing,” Mr Laird said.

“Removing those people would have a huge impact on reducing the number of protected species shot each year.

“Instead, blanket closures, increased regulation and late start times are introduced. These measures will not prevent the actions of those individuals who do the wrong thing.”

Mr Laird said that while these measures reduced hunting opportunities, the most positive aspect is that a season has been declared.

“Unethical hunters gave duck hunting opponents plenty of ammunition last season and it has certainly been used very effectively,” he said.

“Minister Pulford has been under intense pressure to cancel the season and has resisted that option. She must receive due credit for that.”

Mr Laird said SSAA Victoria will continue to advocate on behalf of hunters and is pushing for an offset system to be introduced for future seasons. This would allow for the opening of alternative areas when a State Game Reserve needs to be closed due exceptional circumstances.

“Effectively, the SGR would be made into a sanctuary during the closure so it would be appropriate to open another area in exchange where a closure has seen game bird numbers restocked,” he said.

The Association reminds members that it is up to every hunter to obey the law and do the right thing this duck season. We are very much on notice. Don’t shoot early, positively identify your target, pick up your birds and enjoy the hunting experience.

The following wetlands or parts of wetlands will be closed from the start of the 2018 season:

  • Lake Linlithgow (near Hamilton) will be closed to hunting due to a large number of Freckled Duck and Blue-billed Duck. Alternate nearby duck hunting areas include: Bullrush Swamp, Lake Kennedy and Bryan Swamp.
  • Lake Lonsdale (near Stawell) will be closed to hunting due to a large number of Freckled Duck. Alternate nearby duck hunting areas include: Lake Fyans, Lake Taylor and Pine Lake.
  • Koorangie State Game Reserve (First, Second and Third Marsh and Lake Bael Bael near Kerang) will be closed to hunting due to the large number of Freckled Duck and Blue-billed Duck. Alternate nearby duck hunting areas include: Lake Elizabeth, Racecourse Lake, Cullen’s Lake and Lake Charm.
  • Browns Lake (near Donald) will be closed to hunting due to the significant number of Freckled Duck. Alternate nearby duck hunting areas include: Walkers Lake and Wooroonook Lake.
  • Lake Muirhead State Game Reserve (35 km south west of Ararat) will be closed to hunting due to a significant number of Brolga which are flocking prior to the breeding season. Alternate nearby duck hunting areas include: Lake Buninjon, Lake Bolac and Lake Turangmoroke.
  • A private wetland (south of Stanhope, near the junction of Two-Tree Road and Girgarre – Rushwoth Road): will be closed to hunting due to the significant number of Freckled Duck. Alternate nearby duck hunting areas include: Greens Lake and Waranga Basin.
  • Lake Martin (near Cressy) will be closed on opening weekend only due to the presence of Curlew Sandpiper to minimise disturbance prior to their migration to Asia. Alternate nearby duck hunting areas include: Lake Corangamite, Lake Struan and Lake Tooliorook.
  • Hird Swamp State Game Reserve (near Kerang) will be closed on the western side only over the opening weekend only to minimise disturbances to Australasian Bittern. An alternate nearby duck hunting area is: Gunbower Creek
  • Tower Hill State Game Reserve (13 km north west of the township of Warrnambool) will be partially closed to hunting due to a significant number of Blue-billed Duck. The western half of the lake will be closed to hunting but the eastern half will remain open.
  • Lake Bolac (adjacent to the township of Lake Bolac): Hunting from boats will be prohibited on Lake Bolac due to the presence of a large number of Blue-billed ducks.
  • Waters within 1 km of the seaward boundary of the Spit Wildlife Reserve and Western Treatment Plant have been closed for the duration of the 2018 duck hunting season, as recommended by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, due to the nearby release of captive-bred Orange-bellied Parrots, a critically endangered species which is highly susceptible to disturbance.
  • Brickworks Billabong on Merbein Common (Near Mildura) has been closed for the duration of the 2018 duck hunting season due to a significant number of freckled duck and public safety concerns. Alternate duck hunting areas include State Game Reserves within three hour’s drive of Mildura in areas such as Swan Hill.
  • As in previous years, Kow Swamp near Gunbower and Reedy Lakes (Reedy, Middle and Third Lake) at Kerang will be closed for the entire season to reinforce their status as wildlife sanctuaries where hunting is prohibited.

Victoria’s 2018 duck season opens on Saturday, 17 March and closes on Monday, 11 June.

The bag limit is 10 birds per person per day and the hunting of the Blue-winged Shoveler is prohibited in 2018 due to the continued low numbers of the species.

Hunting will start at 9am across the state on the opening Saturday and 8am on the opening Sunday. New regulations requiring immediate recovery of downed birds and the minimum salvage of duck breast meat have been introduced.

GMA Game Officers, Victoria Police and other authorised officers from DELWP, DEDJTR, Victorian Fisheries Authority and Parks Victoria will be active and monitoring these wetlands across the state during this season to ensure that hunters act in a safe and responsible manner.

For more detailed information on the wetland closures please visit www.gma.vic.gov.au