Opinion

Bill Paterson, FGA chairman

Welcome to our new magazine and communications platform. This is an exciting time for Field & Game Australia; we have always communicated our message well and our constant membership growth is proof of this.


 However, change is essential to keep up with modern communications and we are making the biggest change in our history.

The change means that we say goodbye to Feathers & Fur and the Black Duck team who published it, Graham and Julie Eames.

Graham and Julie have done a fantastic job over many years and FGA will always be grateful for the passion and professionalism which they utilised to promote our profile and message.

Getting our message out, not only to our members, but also the general public is critical to the long-term future of hunting. We have had to wait right up to our deadline for the Victorian Government’s announcement on the 2016 Duck Season. Unfortunately and typically, it was again far too late to allow the industry to prepare.

There is really no justifying an announcement in late January.

The Minister does so after considering the recommendation of the Game Management Authority. This year in preparing that recommendation the GMA asked for written submissions by interested organisations, rather than verbal presentations, which had previously been the case.

Last year we had the absurd situation of the hunting organisations on one side of the table
saying there should be a season and the anti-hunting groups (RSPCA, Animals Australia, Birds Australia etc) on the other side, saying that there should be none!

This year the GMA gave out the Kingsford Waterbirds Survey counts and the long-term rainfall forecasts and asked interested organisations to make written submissions. FGA had decided to move away from these simplistic counts and forecasts and assembled a very detailed (20‑page) submission which highlighted the need for proper scientific collection of data on the effect of hunting in order that the GMA could move to a proper Adaptive Management Model.

This would require declaring normal length seasons and normal bag limits (10 birds per day)
for five years. This will allow scientists to calculate the effect of hunting on duck populations and to ensure that hunting is fully sustainable.

We made the point that the little data a vailable supports our view that water availability is the overriding factor in the number of ducks on the East Coast and that hunting has little or no effect on numbers.

We also documented the 198 sewage and water treatment plants across Victoria, representing 4 875 ha of permanent wetland habitat which hold large numbers of ducks and are not available for hunting.

These refuges, combined with 450 000 dams ranging in size from major storages such as

Dartmouth to small farm dams, mean that ducks can find water even in the driest years.

I encourage you to go to our website and read the FGA submission; our office team and members put a huge effort into researching and, although the Government has again decided to reduce the bag limits, we can take comfort that we did everything we could to get a full season and a scientific approach to the collection of harvest data.

The GMA has posted all of the submissions on its website and it will surprise you to note that not all the organisations claiming to represent hunters proposed a full season and normal bag
limits.

Certainly FGA and SSAA did, but two organisations advocated a reduced bag limit and season length (effectively voting with the RSPCA). These were the Shooting Sports Council of Victoria and Gamecon.

Who are these you may ask? Well, they claim to represent hunters. Both of these groups were formed some years ago to bring the various shooting organisations together, a notoriously difficult exercise.

FGA was a member of both organisations, but withdrew from the Shooting Sports Council
very early in its existence as we did not feel it was effective in being an advocate for the shooting sports. We withdrew from Gamecon a few years ago for basically the same reason.

However, the problem is that although the major hunting organisations have ceased membership, these two organisations continue on and still have a voice at forums such as the submission for a Duck Season.

If you are a member of one of the organisations who still support Shooting Sports Council of Victoria or Gamecon then I would urge you to ask your committee why they remain a member of an organisation which submitted a proposal for a reduced bag limit.

As is often the case, after the GMA recommendation to the Minister and prior to her announcement, there were significant floods in NSW, Queensland and South Australia, i.e. water = ducks!

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