SSAA Victoria is challenging the listing of the Hardhead Duck (Aythya australis) as “Vulnerable” on Victoria’s threatened species list. The Association has taken this action because the evidence does not support these valued game birds being on that list.
The threatened species list is designed to aid the protection and, ideally, the recovery of wildlife species on the path toward extinction. Whilst a threatened species listing in and of itself does not restrict hunting, SSAA Victoria has seen an increasing trend in recent years of threatened species listings being arbitrarily used to do just that. This is most certainly the case with game waterfowl such as Hardhead and Blue Winged Shoveler.
In February this year, SSAA Victoria completed an assessment of the evidence for Hardhead to be listed as a vulnerable species in Victoria and found that it does not stand up to scrutiny. The Association made a nomination to the Victorian Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) to remove Hardhead from the threatened species list. The SAC has accepted the nomination. It will now proceed to a preliminary recommendation stage. Field & Game Australia worked with SSAA Victoria framing up the nomination.
Hardhead were listed as vulnerable in 2013 on the basis that there were fewer than 10,000 mature individuals and that there was purported evidence of a continuing population decline. In a detailed submission to the SAC, SSAA Victoria demonstrated that the population of Hardhead is considerably greater than 10,000 individuals and that there is no evidence of a continuing population decline.
Hardhead are widely distributed across Australia. Count data from Melbourne’s Western Treatment Plant regularly shows a population greater than 10,000 in that wetland complex alone.
Challenges such as this are important for several reasons. The impact that these listings can have on hunting is one of them. At least as important is the principle that settings that affect the conservation and management of game wildlife species should be evidence-based and focused on achieving better management outcomes in the real world.