2019 Articles

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The Andrews Government ignores the best environmental advice and calls a 2019 duck shooting season.

Despite the ravages of climate change; long-term drought across eastern Australia; Victoria in drought; bushfires raging; millions of fish dying in the Murray-Darling river system; important waterbird breeding wetland the Menindee Lakes completely dry and native waterbird numbers at seriously low levels, the Andrews Labor Government has again ignored the science and declared a 2019 recreational duck shooting season.

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WIN TV - January 14, 2019

Empty nests a stark portrait of drying lakes

Peter Hannam, The Age, 22 Jan 2019

PHOTO: Nests without birds, near Bourke, NSW. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Water bird numbers at Menindee Lakes, near the site of this year’s massive fish kill, are in long-term decline, amid an ongoing failure to manage water levels to match weather fluctuations, leading ecologist Richard Kingsford says.

Bird numbers at the lakes in far-western NSW peaked at about 140,000 in 1985, according to surveys taken annually since 1983. For each good wet year since, the bird count has been falling.

Water populations "are a bit like a tennis ball, but the bounce is just getting lower and lower" during good years, said Professor Kingsford, who is director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of NSW.

The lakes "are one of the hotspots for water bird in eastern Australia, and they’ve been declining for some time".

The decline showed the lakes were being managed in ways out of sync with natural fluctuations.

Levels are being kept artificially high when water is available in the Darling River and then drained too quickly for the ecosystem to take advantage of the wet period.

"It’s when they try to get the water out – that’s the real problem," Professor Kingsford said.

"It doesn’t allow the natural concentration" of invertebrates and food sources for birds to develop.

The health of the Murray-Darling river system is in the spotlight after a fish kill in the Darling River behind the Menindee Weir 32 this month left a million fish dead.

While the fish carcasses provided easy picking for pelicans and cormorants, any boost was likely only to be short term, Professor Kingsford said.

The water bird figures are collected each October and in the same locations. The data show a drop in the diversity of species – which include herons and ibises – but also the near absence of breeding at the lakes since 2012, he said.

The state of the region’s ecology and mismanagement of water resources will be studied by the Australian Academy of Science after the body took up a request by Labor leader Bill Shorten.

Labor has asked for a report by February 10 and says it will be made public. Some of the birds may be making their way to some of the dams set up by irrigators, such as cotton growers further up the Darling.

A manager at Darling Farms – a currently fallow cotton farm near Bourke because of the absence of water – told The Age during a visit last week that "the birdlife was absolutely phenomenal" during times when dams were full.

Black swans "in the middle of the desert" were one feature, while the numbers of brolga were also impressive.

"We saw thousands of them – it was absolutely ridiculous," the manager said.

Such sanctuaries, though, are unlikely to be long-lasting, particularly as dead trees start to rot, Professor Kingsford said: "It’s a very temporary nesting habitat."

Aerial Survey of Wetland Birds in Eastern Australia - October 2018 Annual Summary Report


Pollies unite to ban hunt

Geelong Advertiser, Geelong VIC

22 Jan 2019


VICTORIA'S crossbench politicians are hoping it's a case of birds of a feather stick together when it comes to ending duck hunting in the state.

Greens leader Samantha Ratnam, the Reason Party's Fiona Patten and Animal Justice Party's Andy Meddick say they and other crossbenchers will join forces in parliament to convince the re-elected Labor government to ban duck hunting in Victoria.

"Bird numbers are at record lows and that's exacerbated by the drought situation," Mr Meddick said. "It puts our native waterbirds at increasing risk of having even lower numbers and even extinction levels going forward."

About half of the 11-member crossbench was in agreement on the issue. Ms Ratnam said the government had the power to cancel the 2019 season already. Ms Patten said the crossbench was finding consensus on several issues and that combined agreement could prove crucial as leverage against the government, which needs at least three non-Labor votes for Bills to pass the upper house.

The Game Management Authority announced earlier this month this year's season would be shortened from 12 to nine weeks and the bag limit decreased. But both major parties say there will not be an end to the sport.

"it's a legitimate recreational activity that many Victorian participate in," Acting Premier Jacinta Allan said yesterday. "We have no plans to change that."

Despite the newly elected Liberal member for Brighton, James Newbury, using his maiden speech in parliament to deplore duck hunting, the Liberal-National coalition says the activity should remain.



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History and Victories

2007 & 2008

Moratoriums called in Victoria and South Australia. The rescue team travelled to Moulting Lagoon, the entrance to Freycinet National Park, on the east coast of Tasmania to confront the shooters and protect waterbirds after the Tasmanian government refused to call a moratorium.


Three states in Australia have now banned the recreational shooting of native waterbirds – Western Australia (1990), New South Wales (1995) and now Queensland (10 August 2005)


Queensland’s Premier Beattie becomes the third state Labor government to ban the recreational shooting of native waterbirds.

The Age editorial (19 March) again calls for the recreational shooting of native waterbirds to be banned in Victoria.

The numbers of duck shooters in Victoria drops from 95000 in 1986 to 19,400 today, although only small number were active on the state's wetlands in 2005.

View our Opening Weekend 2005 article


The Sunday Age editorial (12 January) calls on the Victorian Bracks Government to ban the recreational shooting of native waterbirds in Victoria.

The Victorian government calls a moratorium. Rescue team travels to Tasmania for the opening weekend of their duck shooting season.


The Bracks Government's own Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (AWAC) recommends that the recreational shooting of native waterbirds be banned in Victoria because of the inherent cruelty.


Lead shot banned in Victoria.


Premier Bob Carr bans the recreational shooting of native waterbirds in NSW, the second state Labor government to ban the activity.


The Age newspaper editorial (24 March) calls for duck shooting to be outlawed. The first sentence says: 'Duck shooting is not a sport, it is an obscenity'.


The recreational shooting of native waterbirds is banned in Western Australia by the then Labor Government.


Latest Poll

Latest Morgan Research Poll - Majority of Victorians want duck shooting banned

Open Letter to Premier John Brumby

The Age (page 5) Thursday 27 November 2008 - click on image or link to view article.

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Latest Morgan Research Poll - Majority of Victorians want duck shooting banned.

View Morgan Research Poll PDF

- Read Poll Finding - Read Summary Report

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