Government goes ahead with duck hunting, implements new measures

February 12, 2024 BY

Recreational duck hunting will continue with new restrictions in place in a move that has divided community organisations. Photo: ELLIE CLARINGBOLD

RECREATIONAL duck hunting will continue in Victoria with several “common-sense” changes after the Allan Government rejected the recommendation of a Labor-led inquiry to ban the sport.

From 2025, hunters will be required to undertake additional training to improve shot accuracy as well as First Nations cultural awareness training.

The use of lead shot for quail hunting will be banned and hunters who break the law will face harsher penalties.

Field and Game Australia (FGA) welcomed the announcement, particularly the decision to implement a new model to guide the conditions of future duck hunting seasons.

The adaptive harvest management model will use data relating to the population of ducks and the availability of wetlands to determine daily bag limits and the length of seasons.

“We’re pretty happy with [the government’s] commitment to move towards a scientifically based season setting arrangement,” FGA chief executive Lucas Cooke said.

“That’s what we’ve been after for a long time.”

He said while there were still several details surrounding the new restrictions to be determined, FGA were “on board” and would try to implement the changes “in a workable fashion”.

“It’s always been Field and Game’s position to support education over legislation.

“The training, we think, can be done in a positive way. We’ll support it, we’ll get behind it and work with our members to complete that.”

He suggested, however, that concerns around the compliance of hunters and the wounding rates of waterbirds had been “blown massively out of proportion by those trying to ban duck hunting”.

“Hunters are a compliant group.

“We are committed to constant improvement and if there’s things we can do and implement that will further reduce wounding then we’ll look at what those things are and implement them.”

Record duck breeding following favourable rainfall in 2022 saw a significant population increase in most game species of ducks through last year’s hunting season.

Record high breeding in 2022 saw duck populations rise above the long-term average last year. Long-term trends, however, continue to show significant declines in waterbird populations. Graphic: EASTERN WATERBIRD SURVEY


Despite this, five of the eight games species continue to show significant long-term decline, according to data gathered during the annual Eastern Waterbird Survey.

Dry conditions returned in 2023 and the high rate of breeding did not continue through the year.

Geelong Duck Rescue co-ordinator Natalie Kopas said the group were disappointed but not surprised with the government’s decision.

“We’re angry, we’re frustrated, we’re determined to keep fighting.

“Duck shooting is not sustainable. Cruelty is inherent in the activity. Even if you can lessen the cruelty, you cannot abolish it.”

She said the new compliance measures for duck hunters were “pointless”.

“GMA (Game Management Authority) don’t get their feet wet. They have no idea what’s happening out there.

“We have at best 12 officers and they’re highly restricted in the hours they can work. Is there any possible way that they can actually monitor what’s happening?”

She also suggested the regulatory authority has “no appetite to prosecute”.

Officers from the GMA, Victoria Police and partner agencies patrol wetlands across the state during duck hunting season to ensure hunter and protestor compliance.

“The GMA takes a risk-based and intelligence-led approach to compliance and assigns its resources accordingly,” A GMA spokesperson said.

“All allegations of illegal hunting provided to the GMA are formerly assessed, and if substantiated, appropriate regulatory actions are taken.”

Outdoor Recreation Minister Steve Dimopoulos said duck hunting was a “legitimate activity” that supports regional communities and economies.

“Our position has not changed and we’re supporting recreational duck and quail hunting to continue in a safe, sustainable and responsible way with minimal harm to our environment.”

He confirmed this year’s duck hunting season will run from April 10 to June 5.