ADVOCATES fighting against the upcoming duck season say COVID-19 restrictions on recreational hunting are meaningless if the season goes ahead as planned from next weekend.
Victoria's shortened Duck Season will run from May 2-June 8, despite bans on recreational hunting in wetlands expected to remain in place until at least May 11.
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The Victorian Stubble Quail season is already up and running having started on April 4 and continues until June 30.
Under lockdown restrictions, shooters are permitted to use firearms on private properties which some advocates say are giving ample opportunity for them to flout laws as to what can be shot.
Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting (RVOTDS) spokesperson Kerrie Allen said this season should have been cancelled, if not for COVID-19 outbreak, but also for a decline in numbers of birds due to droughts and bushfires.
"The season should not have been recommended to take place at all," Ms Allen said. "The restrictions are meaningless given most of the activity is not monitored.
"Sadly we know the high likelihood of non-compliance, cruelty and protected species being shot given the high number of incidents reported just at the few waterways which are monitored."
"We have no reason to believe the cruelty and decimation of our desperately struggling native waterbirds won't continue on private land just as it would on public, with little oversight."
Dr Rod Bird, Secretary of Hamilton Field Naturalists Club said ornithologists have been unable to conduct their normal checks at wetlands for protected and threatened bird species.
READ MORE: Duck season still on despite restrictions
"We've been unable to do anything since the lockdown was announced," Dr Bird said.
"Nothing's been done since then. We are not permitted to go anywhere.
"My fear is hunters will be let loose on threatened species. Our main concern is there aren't really any official sanctuaries that can't be shot."
Victorian's Game Management Authority said it was working closely with Victoria Police, DELWP, Parks Victoria and other agencies to enforce game hunting laws.
A GMA spokesperson said: "Authorised officers continue to patrol around private properties and public land, including game reserves, wetlands, state forests to ensure compliance with game hunting laws.
"Illegal hunting and irresponsible behaviour will not be tolerated.
"GMA officers have the power to enter private property if there is reasonable belief that an offence is being or has been committed."
GMA says it has assessed the impact of drought on game duck abundance, distribution and breeding which as a result recommended a modified 2020 duck hunting season with reduced bag limits and season length, and a prohibition on the hunting of the Blue-winged Shoveler.
It says it also assessed the impact of the bushfires and advised government that there was no significant impact on game ducks or their habitats.
This week, the State Government announced that hunting licenses would be extended for a further 12 months. It said health directives and restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic had impacted game hunting seasons for hog and sambar deer, stubble quail and gamebirds.
"We thank hunters for staying home and doing the right thing as we all work together to slow the spread of coronavirus - it's been challenging and frustrating, but it's working," Regional Development Minister Jaclyn Symes said.
But Ms Allen said hunters, not locals were being compensated.
"Regional landowners and rural communities are being totally disregarded," she said.
"The Minister seems to have no comprehension of the value our native birdlife could bring regional areas through year round bird watching tourism. Bird watching is $41 billion in the US alone."
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