A shock last-minute decision to close the Elizabeth Lake State Game Reserve on the eve of Victoria’s duck hunting season has left thousands of hunters angry and disappointed.
The closure is in response to the presence of between 80 and 100 Blue-billed Ducks and was done without consultation with the Victorian Game Management Authority, using a process from the last century.
Field & Game Australia had advocated that the State Game Reserve be kept open as the Victorian government had already committed Victoria Police, Compliance Officers, and Game Management Authority resources to the wetland, and there was an opportunity for further scientific observation and analysis of the bird’s habits while hunting was taking place, to develop better processes in future seasons.
The Game Management Authority’s own education and training videos describe the Blue-billed Duck as a ‘diving duck, preferring to inhabit deep-water lakes … and when disturbed, will usually dive, and rarely fly’.
If this is the case, hunting would pose no threat to the bird: hunters take their birds on the wing since it is unsafe to shoot down into the water.
The other wetlands closed due to the presence of Blue-billed Duck had their closures announced several days ago. Field & Game Australia General Manager, David McNabb, had enquired whether any of these closures would be reversed since it appears the Blue-bills have relocated to Elizabeth Lake. Unsurprisingly, the answer was ‘no’.
“It reinforces the importance of habitat, and the need for informed management and decision-making, based on scientific evidence gathered in the field,” Mr McNabb said.
“While Field & Game Australia were criticised for their submission to the Victorian Game Management Authority in December last year with the recommendation to go ahead with the full season as legislated, the other recommendations in our submission were seeking a greater commitment to the management and preservation of habitat for waterbirds in Victoria.
“It’s especially frustrating when this closure is for a State Game Reserve, which would not exist if it were not for hunters wanting to conserve wetland habitat, contributing to funds back in the late 1950s with licence fees in order to purchase, protect and improve these wetlands so that our waterbird populations would be taken care of.
“This decision will impact the region around Elizabeth Lake as well, as hunters may choose to head home after having two successive closures on wetlands which are historically brilliant for supplying wild game for the table,” he said.
The extremist animal rights group, Animals Australia, has publicly stated their intent to lobby the Victorian Supreme Court today to have Elizabeth Lake State Game Reserve closed.
However, there were no scheduled hearings for Animals Australia, or their representatives, listed on the Victorian Supreme Court website for today. The organisation may claim their lobbying a success, but their actions had no impact whatsoever on a decision that appears to have already been made by the time Animals Australia shared their intent on social media.