A primary objective of Field & Game Australia is to preserve, restore, develop, and maintain waterfowl habitat in Australia. Waterfowl hunters are aware of the importance of our wetlands and the biodiversity associated with them.

Field & Game Australia have consistently been at the forefront of wetland conservation, often being the first to notice changes in waterfowl habitat and population, continually seeking the reasons for these changes. Wildlife scientists agree that the loss of habitat is the greatest threat to waterfowl, far greater than recreational hunting. Several species including the Hardhead, Blue-wing Shoveler, Blue-billed Duck and the Musk Duck have been considerably affected through the alteration or loss of their habitat, reflecting a continuing need for Field & Game Australia’s wetland restoration and conservation programs.

Ramsar convention and principles

In 1975, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat came into force. This international treaty, commonly known as the Ramsar Convention, centres on the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, and recognises the role that wetlands play in our economies, culture, science, and recreation.

Australia is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention and has over 8.3 million hectares of Ramsar-listed wetlands. It has been argued that hunting goes against the Ramsar principles, however, amongst Australia’s wetlands of importance are areas which are (wholly, or partly) declared Victorian State Game Reserves: the Kerang Wetlands, Gunbower Forest, and the greater Gippsland Lakes wetland system. Recognition of these areas, where hunting takes place during the legislated seasons, is important, as the Ramsar Convention defines wise use as ‘the sustainable use of wetland resources in such a way as to benefit the human community while maintaining their potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations.’

The idea of maintaining and preserving ecosystems for wise use –including sustainable hunting – by humans, to sustain communities, culture, and recreation aligns closely with Field & Game Australia’s mission statement. Hunter-led conservation contributes much to wetland health: several of these unique wetlands may have been drained and destroyed decades ago, if it were not for some concerned hunters wanting to protect waterfowl populations and habitat.

A history of conservation dedication

Field & Game Australia has been involved in many long and difficult efforts to save wetlands in Australia for the hundreds of species which depend wholly or partly upon wetland habitats for their survival. Many of the efforts have been predominately aimed at non-game species, especially the Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus and the Brolga Grus rubicundus.

Some of the wetlands that have benefitted from hunter-led conservation since 1958 include:

  • Hird Swamp (Ramsar-listed, part of the Kerang Wetlands)
  • Johnson Swamp (Ramsar-listed, part of the Kerang Wetlands)
  • Dowd Morass (Ramsar-listed, part of the Gippsland Lakes)
  • Reedy Lake (Nagambie)
  • Kanyapella Basin (near Echuca)
  • Lake Borrie (Ramsar-listed, part of the Port Phillip Bay Western Shoreline, and Bellarine Peninsula)
  • Reedy Lake (Geelong – Ramsar-listed, part of the Port Phillip Bay Western Shoreline, and Bellarine Peninsula)
  • Macleod Morass (near Bairnsdale)
  • Hospital Swamp (Geelong)
  • Tower Hill (Warrnambool)
  • Lake Eppalock (near Bendigo)
  • Loveday Wetlands Complex (South Australia)
  • Gunbower Island and Gunbower Forest (Ramsar-listed, near Kerang)
  • Gaynors Swamp (near Rochester)
  • Lake Buloke (near Donald)
  • Harrison Dam (Northern Territory)
  • Lake Wellington (Sale)
  • Jack Smith Lake (Sale)
  • Heart Morass and Sale Common (Sale)
  • Emu Plains Reserve (Balnarring)
  • Pyramid Creek Swamp
  • Murtnaghurt Lagoon (near Geelong)
  • Lake Eppalock (Bendigo)
  • Hawkstowe Park (Epping)
  • Plenty Gorge Park (Epping)

Many of these wetlands have long-term, ongoing conservation work performed by hunters, as these important wetland habitats require active maintenance and monitoring to ensure that the wetland ecosystems remain balanced and able to support a wide variety of flora and fauna.