As Victorian duck shooters prepare to head the Riverina “for the rice” over the Melbourne Cup long weekend, native bird populations are under threat with new evidence showing that species’ numbers are in steep decline.

Secret government reports have revealed that the Coalition Government is routinely approving kill quotas for native ducks at rates capable of driving bird species to extinction in NSW.

The reports, obtained by Greens MP David Shoebridge and under freedom of information laws, show that despite the blue winged shoveler, chestnut teal and the mountain duck at critically low population levels, they are still being targeted for hunting.

The government’s own reports show that these three species’ populations have collapsed over the last two decades, down from population highs of 20,000 to state-wide populations of less than 1,000 birds. (See table below.)

Two reports dated 2015 and December 2016, commissioned by the Department of Primary Industries on duck hunting quotas, found:

The results also highlight an alarming trend in the abundance of the Bluewinged Shoveler, Chestnut Teal and the Australian Shelduck. The indices of abundance for these species have remained very low for the last two decades despite environmental conditions, for at least part of that period, being well above average. At this stage it is not clear why these species have remained at low abundance and there is a need to investigate the potential causes.”

Despite this advice the NSW Government set quotas for hunting these three species in 2014/15 and 2015/16 at levels that were in excess of their estimated total state population.

Blue Winged Shoveler Chestnut Teal Mountain Duck
Current population estimate in NSW 5366 9662 18 818
2014/15 Allocated Quota 4553 8080 8963
2015/16 Allocated Quota 262 1170 3451
2016/17 Allocated Quota 537 966 1882

 

This is a level of hunting that would have made these species close to extinct in NSW if the quotas had been filled. With an influx of shooters headed to NSW in early November, this is a level of killing that could seriously risk the long-term survival of the three species.

Greens MP and Firearms Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“We know that the Melbourne Cup long weekend is going to see swathes of Victorian shooters head to the Riverina, driving native birds closer and closer to extinction.

“These reports show how little regard there is for environmental outcomes in this state, let alone animal welfare.

“While the highly questionable self-reporting figures the Department of Primary Industries receives from hunters suggests that only a fraction of these approved quotas have been killed, it remains likely that specific local populations have been driven even closer to extinction as a result of the killing.

“If you look at the kill quotas for just one locality, such as Barham, you can see mountain ducks and blue-winged shovelers being shot at rates likely to drive the birds to local extinction.

““The Coalition Government is quite literally signing off on the extinction of at least three species of native birds.

“The Native Game Bird Mitigation Program was part of a dodgy deal between the Coalition and the Shooters to privatise our ports, and four years on we are seeing the devastating impact it is having on our native animals.

“The population of three beautiful birds has collapsed over the last two decades and the Coalition is still signing off on their slaughter. “ Mr Shoebridge said.

Comment from Humane Society International:

“It is outrageous to HSI that the NSW government is setting quotas for these declining species in the name of “crop protection. This is a farce created by the Shooters and Fishers Party who negotiated a bill through parliament in 2012,so that amateur shooters could kill more of our native waterfowl.

“We are especially concerned at the estimated population size of the chestnut teal. One survey count put the 2016 abundance of this species at less than 800 individuals in NSW. Such a population size likely warrants a critically endangered species listing and we plan to nominate this species for threatened species protection to the NSW Scientific Committee.”