News reports about a potentially poor or even cancelled 2019 Duck Season based on the recent Eastern Australia Aerial Waterbird Survey (EAAWS) results are premature.
The Weekly Times recently reported that the likelihood of a good duck season were “evaporating” after the EAAWS survey indicated low bird numbers due to drought conditions throughout the Eastern States.
However, SSAA Victoria Hunting Development Manager David Laird said it was far too early to predict bird numbers, particularly using the survey as the definitive guide.
“EAAWS provides a long-term reference that can be useful in understanding trends in habitat availability and waterbird abundance across much of the continent, but excessive emphasis shouldn’t be placed on it when considering the Victorian duck season,” he said.
“It is not an appropriate tool to predict game duck populations in Victoria during the hunting season and that is not its purpose.
“For example, the EAAWS indicated extremely low duck numbers prior to the 2017 season. This prediction was not supported by ground surveys in Victoria prior to the season.
“The GMA report, Estimates of harvest for duck and Stubble Quail in Victoria 2017, confirms that it was a very good duck season, with the estimated take above the long-term average.”
He said the Association supports a science-based approach to game management and that the Summer Waterfowl Count is a much more accurate indicator of duck numbers leading into duck season.
“All evidence has shown that regulated recreational hunting does not threaten the sustainability of duck populations,” Mr Laird said.
“The GMA recognises that Victoria’s game ducks are highly resilient to harvesting and have strong powers of recovery in response to harvesting and favourable environmental conditions.”
The Association will continue to monitor seasonal conditions and game duck numbers in the lead-up to the 2019 season. A submission will be lodged with the GMA outlining the Association’s final position on the 2019 season at the appropriate time.
In the meantime, the Association is calling on the Government to adopt a scientifically controlled season predictor such as the Waterfowl Conservation Harvest Model (WCHM), which would look at all factors affecting game bird numbers.
“The WCHM would enable decisions about such things as bag limits each Duck Season to be based on science and not politics or emotion,” Mr Laird said.
“We are encouraging decision-makers to commit to a regulated season and bag limits for a period of five years while a WCHM-type system is implemented.”