Goose hunting in the Northern Territory has been slashed on the basis that populations need to recover.
NT Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, Lauren Moss said a short season and a daily bag limit of just three birds is based on scientific surveys which indicated the resident population has been seriously depleted.
“The NT’s magpie goose population is the lowest on record at 725,000. This is a dramatic 45 per cent reduction on 2016 and only a quarter of the 2012 population,” Minister Moss said.
The survey work has been criticised locally for not covering some critical breeding areas but there will be no reassessment before the season starts on October 27. The science that underpins the decision has not been released, it should be, so that hunters can be satisfied the dramatic cuts are necessary.
A fact sheet issued with the announcement states that Department scientists recommended a maximum take in 2017 of 15 000 geese from recreational hunting, and a maximum of 5 000 geese under crop protection permits.
This, despite accepted science in sustainable use of wildlife that healthy populations can sustain an annual harvest of up to 20 per cent and that hunting is not additive to overall natural mortality.
Based on this science, the current population could withstand an offtake of 140 000 birds, higher than the annual average of 110 000 birds taken in recent seasons.
The season will run for eight weeks until December 23, four weeks fewer than the 2016 season.
The bag limit for Magpie geese is down from 7 to 3 but the bag for ducks will remain unchanged at 10 per day.
“The scientific research and analysis is clear - action must be taken now to allow the magpie goose population to recover. If we do not take action now there is a risk that future seasons may have to be cancelled.” Minister Moss said.
The announcement turned goose hunting unto a political football with Lauren Moss accusing the former CLP government of ignoring advice to take action between 2013 and 2016.
“The Territory Labor Government promised that our environmental decisions would be based on science, and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” she said.
Dr Alaric Fisher, Executive Director, Flora and Fauna Division of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said the science underpinning the decision is “accurate and rigorous”.
“The decrease in magpie geese has been both rapid and alarming; action must be taken now to sustain the population of magpie geese,” he said.
“The Department of Environment and Natural Resources conducted a comprehensive and systematic aerial survey across the Top End’s floodplains in April and May this year and has estimated the 2017 magpie goose population as 725,000, just over half of what it was last year.”
He puts the decline down to a series of Wet seasons that have been unfavourable for nesting.