I step back into the role of chairman of FGA in unfortunate circumstances and at a difficult and testing time. Rob Treble had no option but to resign from the boards of FGA and WET, but we were very sorry to lose him, and to see his time as chairman cut short.
It was not good, it was not fair, but it was the right thing to do. We thank Rob for his service as chairman and as a board member of long standing.
The first issue we tackled was the replacement of our CEO with David McNabb leaving the organisation. I would like to thank David for his service over the past three years, a time when FGA has seen many changes. Our new CEO is Richard Light, who comes to us from the oil industry, with more than 20 years’ international experience culminating with his role as vice president for health and safety for Schlumberger North America. Richard was a committee member and shoot marshall for the Gulf Coast SPE Sporting Clays shoot, which attracted 750 shooters, and has competed (successfully) at World Skeet Championships.
Richard has hunted extensively around the world: deer, duck and upland bird hunting in Australia; being a contract shooter for the US Department of National Parks — deer, pig, duck and goose (including at the Thunderbird Hunt Club); upland bird hunting in the US; and numerous trips to Argentina to shoot doves in Cordoba.
He has a strong background in environmental management and was his company’s lead advocate and responsible executive for environmental regulatory compliance.
FGA needs strong and skilled advocates to protect and develop hunting, to secure our shooting grounds, deliver great clay target competitions and ensure we are absolutely on top of environmental issues such as PFAS. Richard brings a broad set of skills and experience to FGA in the areas that are critical to our ongoing success.
Duck Season 2018
Our editor has ‘held the presses’ for me on this column until we had the Minister’s announcement on the 2018 season. The process normally is that FGA and other hunting organisations are invited by the Game Management Authority (GMA) to make a submission to them on what we think the season should be. The GMA then makes its recommendation to the Minister, who then makes her decision as to what the season will be in terms of time, bag limits, species able to be hunted and any other condition she believes relevant for that year. There were two things different this year: firstly, the time between the GMA calling for submissions and the deadline for them was much shorter than in previous years, and also, the government had made clear it wanted changes in the way the Opening was managed in order to avoid a repeat of the bad behaviour of some hunters who let us all down at Karangie last year. Recognising that 2018 was again going to be a season with high numbers of ducks in all areas, FGA’s recommendation was for a full season, full bag limits and the return to the bag of at least two blue-winged shovelers.
The announcement has now been made and the season will be open at 9 am on Saturday, March 17 and close on Monday, June 11. The bag limit is 10 ducks but blue-winged shoveler will be prohibited due to persistent low numbers of the species.
For opening weekend, hunting will commence at 9 am on Saturday and 8 am on Sunday across the whole state as part of a trial of opening the season during daylight hours. For the rest of the season, hunting times will revert to the standard half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset
The GMA will also raise the minimum pass mark for the Waterfowl Identification Test from 75 per cent to 85 per cent for any new game licence applications.
In addition, new regulations will be introduced to formally require hunters to retrieve all ducks shot and include them in their bag and to retain a minimum of at least the breast meat.
We are disappointed with the changes made to the opening weekend times and the continued exclusion of the blue-winged shoveler; when we were informed about various options being canvassed for the conduct of this year’s season, we strongly argued against them. However, that is the season for 2018 and it is up to all of us to abide by the regulations and enjoy our hunting. Be in no doubt — if we are ever to lose the ability to hunt ducks in Victoria, it will not be because of the activity of protesters, it will be because of the bad behaviour of a very few hunters.
Any conversation with politicians regarding duck hunting will see them talk about ‘social licence’.
This concept is based on the fact that the people of Victoria, in trust for future generations, own all Victorian wildlife. The people allow a season of sustainable hunting on the basis it is carried out ethically and respectfully by licensed hunters, skilled in identifying ducks.
This is social licence.
Whenever the terms of the social licence are not complied with, the government will place restrictions on the activity (e.g. change Opening times) and if it senses the social licence has been lost, will shut the activity down. The Australian export beef industry was shut down for months when unethical and cruel behaviour to export cattle in Asian abattoirs was exposed. This bankrupted many Australian farmers who were in no way to blame and nearly destroyed the export beef industry. The social licence had been severely damaged.
It is important that hunters understand that the term ‘social licence’ is being exploited by animal liberationists and extreme environmentalists to attack a range of activities including mining, farming, racing and hunting. Like other concepts, social licence is being applied and interpreted in ways that were never intended when it is was first used by the mining industry to engage with people affected directly by the impact of mining on their lives. As the greyhound industry, graziers and the mining industry have seen, this is a challenge we ignore at our peril.
We must understand and value our social licence to be able to continue hunting ducks. We do not have a god given right to hunt, we do so under a social licence and anyone who puts that licence at risk (by doing the wrong thing on the wetland) is a much greater risk to us than any number of protesters!
Don’t put up with those who do the wrong thing, they are putting your hunting at risk. FGA wants to see prosecutions of those who do the wrong thing and more game officers spread more widely on Opening.
Hunting at Heart Morass
FGA will be selling keys to the WET property at the Heart Morass to members who wish to hunt there again this season. The PFAS contamination of Heart Morass from the RAAF base next door remains a major issue for us and you can read more about where we stand on page 38.
Wherever you hunt this season, as always, it is critical that you do so with respect and within the law. That will ensure you not only have a great season this year, but many more to come.