Duck opening enforcement ... Where was it?
The Game Management Authority (GMA) has announced the closure of Koorangie Game Reserve, west of Kerang. Koorangie State Game Reserve comprises Lake Bael and First, Second and Third Marsh (collectively known as the Marshes). The closure took effect from Saturday, March 25.
Unfortunately, in all walks of life there are people who do the wrong thing. As we are constantly pointing out, duck hunters are a diverse group of people who do come from all walks of life. As with any large group there will be some who will act contrary to the accepted ethics and traditions, as well as the law. We only have to look at some of the anti-social behaviour going on around us every day to see that this is a widespread problem across society. Hoons on the roads; kids having brawls in shopping centres; and gate crashers rioting at parties are all images seen on an all-too-regular basis on the nightly news and all reflecting illegal and anti-social behaviour.
We all understand that this is not representative of the vast majority and that most people are not involved in this type of behaviour. The facts remain that the vast majority of duck hunters are decent, honest, responsible and law-abiding people. The incidents on the week-end reflect the elements of the hunting scene that are none of these things. The non-hunting public needs to understand that genuine hunters are just as sickened and angered by illegal and unethical hunting behaviour as they are. In fact, they are angrier. Hunters realise that their lifestyle and traditions are under threat and that these criminals are actively helping the antis put nails in the coffin of duck hunting in this state.
SSAA understands the limitations of GMA’s enforcement capabilities. GMA officers cannot cover every wetland in the state and we do not expect them to. What we do expect is that they make a genuine and concerted effort to stamp out illegal behaviour. SSAA will wholeheartedly support the enforcement of current legislation and the allocation of sufficient resources to achieve that objective. It is not good enough for GMA to wash its hands of its duties and say that hunters simply need to self-regulate.
Information to hand indicates that the vast bulk of GMA’s enforcement effort on the week-end went into dealing with protestors, as it does most duck openings. Perhaps the anti-duck hunting protestors might reflect on how many ducks may have been saved if enforcement officers were out in the swamps. Charging illegal hunters and confiscating their firearms on the spot would have a much greater and more immediate effect on protecting non-game species than all the protestors’ antics. Of course, this action would not satisfy the protestors’ insatiable desire for publicity for their cause and would not make sense in their ideologically-driven world view. Perhaps GMA needs to reflect on this approach as well. Instead of closing areas, a targeted operation and some arrests might send a message to all hunters. Those doing the right thing will be heartened that something positive is being done to support them. Those doing the wrong thing might pause to consider that unlawful activity will have consequences.
Instead of blaming all hunters for illegal behaviour, there needs to be a real enforcement effort to target those doing the wrong thing. SSAA, along with other hunting organisations, educate members on legal and ethical hunting behaviour. We constantly encourage members to do the right thing and have codes of conduct that our members agree to comply with.
We work very hard to encourage legal and ethical behaviour and we speak for those doing the right thing. However, we don’t make the legislation and we do not have any enforcement powers. It is up to the authorities to show all those hunters who are doing the right thing that they can have confidence in GMA’s law enforcement.
Hunters would also like to see the law upheld in relation to protesters dumping dead ducks in a public place. As hunters, if we had a protected species in our possession, regardless of the reason, there is no doubt we would be charged. How can protestors have birds in their possession then dump them in a public place and incur no penalty? Is this saying that if you don’t agree with a law you can break it and nothing will be done? It is understandable that many hunters feel that there are double-standards at work here. It would be heartening to see the authorities release a press statement condemning protestors for their actions.
Once again, SSAA calls upon its members to hunt with RESPECT and to report any illegal behaviour that they witness.