Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Spoonbill enjoys the support of hunters

We live in an interesting state! At at time when the governments of several Australian states have banned recreational waterfowl hunting the current Victorian government is actively promoting the activity.

We live in a democracy and I believe there are some 42,000 recreational shooters in Victoria. Game hunting of waterfowl and Stubble quail is an activity that goes back generations in many regional communities. Member organisations such as Field and Game Australia (FGA) have a considerable voice. Interestingly one founding focus of the FGA was the conservation of dwindling and damaged wetlands (with the consequent loss of game to shoot). The FGA continues this work and I am often confronted by this irony when enjoying my own recreational pursuit.

Royal spoonbill, Phillip Island
This happened again when I turned from photographing this spoonbill to take a scene shot. I find that the wetland is owned / sponsored by the local branch of the FGA. There are many such examples across the state.

Is this the longest wetland name ever?
An example of how entrenched the hunting culture is in this state is that many of Victoria's best known bushland reserves are classified as State Game Reserves, many of which are available for shooters to hunt (within prescribed seasons).

The current government has set up a new authority called Game Victoria to supervise the duck season. This used to be done by the Department of Sustainability and Environnment. It is my understanding that the new body is filled with affiliates of FGA and the Sporting Shooters Association as outlined in this Melissa Fyfe article in The Age.

Generally speaking the trends are towards facilitating the licensing of shooters (with more flexible licence packages etc) and the "development of improved hunting opportunities" as expounded in the Government's media release Creation of Game Victoria signals new era.

Tucking in! Royal spoonbill
Black swan and cygnet also enjoying the wetland
While I do not understand the attraction of shooting birds as recreation I am not against the concept of sustainable hunting that puts a meal on the plate. I have no problems with anything that is proven to support regional communities.

The final link is to Birdlife Australia's position statement which has changed in recent years and concludes:

Position Statement

BirdLife Australia considers that recreational waterfowl hunting should not be allowed in Australia and its Territories.

This Policy supersedes RAOU Policy on Waterfowl Hunting (2) adopted by Council on 29 May 1994. The scope of this policy is limited to the hunting of waterfowl for recreational purposes, and not where hunting is for traditional food or ceremonial functions, or to mitigate the effects of agricultural or environmental damage.

Reasons for the change of Policy

  • We believe society in general, and our Members in particular, consider the killing of native birds for recreational purposes is an inappropriate interaction between people and their natural environment,
  • It has a potentially negative impact on bird conservation through: killing of non-game species, damage to wetland habitat, and disturbance of birds; these impacts are not likely to be adequately off-set by shooting industry-funded habitat protection and restoration programs, 
  • While BirdLife Australia is not primarily concerned with animal welfare issues, we cannot support an activity that on the balance of probability causes pain and suffering to animals, for no purpose other than recreation.
  • The pro-waterfowl hunting lobby has not shown sufficient commitment to ensuring or demonstrating sustainability of the resource.
Bird on!

Sharing with Wild Bird Wednesday


  1. This problem is world wide ... we have the same issues here in the US. Only our issues have grown into a gun ownership issue and it extends to having assult weapons (really, to hunt with?) The National Rifle Association is the Culprit over here and they are malicious. They are combined with the "2nd Amendment" ranting Republicans who think owning a gun has no responsibilities attached to it ... just have at it. I will grant you, that there are wild populations that require culling, but only because we (man) has killed off all of their natural predators so there is no longer a balance. But this is a small issue compared to the issue of anybody being able to own any kind of gun. Mass killings here are becoming commonplace and yet we still can't pass legislation to control it because of the Republicans and the NRA. I hate that this is the world that we are passing on to our children. And don't get me started on the economics of it all ...Sorry that you are having these struggles as well. Hope your new rulings bring it under control before it gets really bad, as it has over here.

    Aandrea @ From The Sol

  2. This is what I love about WBW: seeing beautiful birds from all over the world. Reminds me of our roseate spoonbill. The Royal has such pretty feathering on the neck, though. Nice job!

  3. Hi Peter. great shot of the Spoonbill. We had one in N. Ireland for the past 5 days and today it was found dead!!! It was a very rare visitor and I did not see it unfortuneately

  4. Golly, that sign is rather disturbing!! It was very disappointing when the first thing the gov did was extend the season when they got in. Lovely spoonbill! I usually see the yellow-billed rather than the royal here.

  5. It is also rather ironic that our current Premier is a vet!

  6. Peter, the spoonbill photo is beautiful!
    Greetings from Holland

  7. Pete, You stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest with this one. (Are there Hornets in Australia?) For a different perspective from the USA than Andrea, I am neither a hunter nor a gun owner. However I have the ability to be objective. Duck's unlimited is the North American equivalent of Field and Game Australia. They have preserved and continue to nurture millions of acres of wetland habitat that all wildlife utilizes. Many species of waterfowl would be in serious trouble without their considerable efforts.
    If there is any group of people that scare me, it is not the NRA, it is the control freaks who presume to know what is best for the rest of us. There is nothing wrong with responsible gun ownership or carefully managed hunting in my open minded opinion.

  8. It is sad that we cannot allocate resources and habitat for the preservation of species for the simple reason that they have every right to share the earth with us.

  9. Regarding John's comment above, please read the following: decision not taken lightly. Gun laws in the US are nuts.