FGA was on the ground near Kerang as events unfolded on opening weekend and we took immediate action both publicly and behind the scenes. Crucially, FGA has taken a leadership role in addressing those issues.
As an organisation we called a summit to draw on the experience and wisdom of members and other leaders in the hunting community.
The importance of the actions we are taking can not be underestimated as you can see from the following quote from correspondence between Government and FGA.
There are seven areas of focus:
Trust and Credibility.
The actions of a few have tarnished the reputation and credibility of many, and FGA has continued to engage with multiple agencies and government to ensure that hunters and their interests are represented.
We have already seen the loss of trust in effect, with agencies moving to a highly precautionary approach, and in correspondence from other Ministers in Victorian government.
The approach taken at Lake Cullen just last week was to alert and educate hunters rather than close the wetland. The weekend passed without incident but trust and credibility remains a crucial element of the required environment for hunter access to be maintained in future when protected and/or non-game species are present on a wetland.
Loss of Access to Public Land.
The direct result of the actions of a few follows on from the loss of trust and credibility, which is the loss of access to public land for hunting. The actions of these few have had a direct impact on the many. FGA views these closures as similar to closing the Hume Freeway to all traffic because of one drink-driver: an extreme reaction.
In the absence of meaningful enforcement, however, the loss of trust will continue to impact on all hunters. FGA has been working over the last several weeks to stave off the proposed closure of more than one iconic wetland; those wetlands are still open.
The wetlands that remain closed are also being monitored by Game Management Authority personnel and FGA volunteers on a weekly basis to assess whether conditions have changed in order to prompt a reopening.
A variety of reasons and restrictions are hampering the ability for enforcement resources to be effective.
In 2015, we wrote to the Game Management Authority about the concentration of taxpayer-funded resources being used mainly for crowd control of anti-hunting activists, and this year we observed once again, enforcement focused away from monitoring hunting activity.
FGA continues to advocate for a critical review of the effectiveness of existing enforcement methods and improving the monitoring of hunters.
Education is a critical component, directly linked with the regulation and enforcement of responsible hunting. How does a new hunter learn about hunting with respect, or their ethical obligations while hunting? FGA has identified opportunities to incorporate hunter education as part of the accreditation and licensing process that all lawful hunters go through. Education is a critical componant of regulation and we believe the GMA has a significant role to play.
Culture and Diversity.
The hunting community is diverse, with members from many cultural backgrounds.
While we celebrate this diversity, it also presents challenges. Some groups may hold different attitudes to hunting due to their background, or there may be a language barrier which makes it difficult to engage with these groups. There’s also changes in the way some hunting is undertaken (in NSW it’s for crop protection, in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Northern Territory, we have regulated seasons) and does this contribute to the culture within which individuals make decisions while hunting?
FGA has identified some areas where we can do more, as the premier duck hunting organisation in Australia, but with so many different cultures and backgrounds, multiple, complex solutions are necessary to improve outcomes for hunting.
Communication and Setting Expectations.
FGA will continue to communicate the positive stories around hunting: the sustainable, ethical harvest of amazing wild food, the enjoyment our beautiful wetland habitats, and spending time with family and friends, connecting with nature.
For the majority of hunters, this is not news, it’s a matter of fact, and the value placed on the experience of hunting wild food, sharing it with family and friends, is what drives our members to act responsibly, hunt ethically, and continue to give back through conservation.
The failue of some to retrieve shot game birds impacts on the perception of responsible hunting and sustainable harvest.
FGA will also continue to communicate the expectations around hunting and encourages responsible hunters to act as leaders among the community.
One major issue that emerged from our summit was that of managing risks. FGA has been advocating for some time that a more flexible, adaptable approach is needed.
We’ve seen a bit of improvement this season, with Lake Linlithgow simply having motorboat use restricted with little or no practical impact on hunting effort, however we are still seeing decisions made around public land where there are only two choices considered: keep the land open, or close it completely.
FGA takes issue with this approach as a complete closure removes opportunities to learn. If we’re able to learn more about how different non-game birds react when hunting occurs around them, we’ll be better able to make informed decisions in future if and when they are present on land normally open for hunting in future.
As you can see from these seven areas of focus, there’s a lot of work to do, and while the opening weekend shook up the hunting community, we’ve had a really strong response from our members.
We’ve taken calls from a lot of concerned, responsible hunters who share our support for hunting with respect, thank you for speaking up!
FGA is proud to have such motivated members and it’s with your help that we’ll keep delivering for hunting in the years to come. As our predecessors did in the late 1950s and early 1960s, we’ve identified issues that will affect hunting in the years to come, so we’re working to protect it.
How can you help?
One of the best ways to protect hunting is to be a hunter, and to be a responsible hunter. Habitat across south-east Australia is in great condition, and there’s a lot of birds out there – so with limited weekends remaining before the close of duck season, FGA encourages you to get out there, to stand up and lead by example and hunt with respect, and put some delicious free-range duck or quail on your table.