A petition calling for a ban on recreational duck shooting on Cairn Curran Reservoir at Baringhup has attracted hundreds of signatures, the majority of them local, in less than a week.
The petition calls for the reservoir and surrounding wetlands to be made a sanctuary and supports a vote made by Mount Alexander Shire Council two years ago to advocate for a ban on duck shooting in the shire.
With shooting season beginning May 26 and running until June 14, petition organisers are asking the council to push for water manager Goulburn-Murray Water to implement the move for reasons of public safety and amenity as well as conservation.
One signatory to the petition said threatened bird species lived in the wetlands.
“Giving it sanctuary status will help protect these birds,” they said.
Karen Mander, a spokesperson for Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting, said public polls showed the majority of Victorians wanted the activity banned, with the strongest support for a ban coming from regional Victoria.
“Mount Alexander Shire Council has done the right thing and heard ratepayers’ concerns and is open to safer, more peaceful, popular pastimes for the waterways, for residents and visitors,” she said.
“This petition is clear evidence that opposition to duck shooting is widespread and based on valid reasons.
“We call on the council to ensure a ban is implemented by the water manager, or to go above their heads to relevant ministers to get it done.”
The case to ban duck shooting is not just an environmental, safety and amenity issue, but also an economic one.
Rod Campbell, research director at The Australia Institute, said that from an economic perspective, banning duck hunting from Mount Alexander Shire was clearly the best policy.
“Hunter expenditure is minimal compared to other recreation and tourism spending and what people do spend on duck hunting would simply be spent on fishing, boating and camping in the event of a ban,” Mr Campbell said.
“With near zero economic benefit, but with substantial environmental cost, banning duck hunting makes sense economically as well as environmentally.”
GMW’s general manager of water storage services Martina Cusack said duck hunting was permitted at Cairn Curran Reservoir and referred responsibility for any decision on a ban to the state government.
“The Victorian Government is responsible for setting guidelines around duck season each year, including season dates and bag limits,” Ms Cusack said.
Minister for Agriculture Mary-Anne Thomas previously advised the Express that the government accepted the Victorian Game Management Authority’s recommendations on the 2021 duck season.
“It’s both mine and the GMA’s expectation that hunters abide by the conditions attached to their licence, and to act safely and responsibly at all times when hunting,” she said.
The petition was organised by Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting Inc. in collaboration with local wildlife, conservation and birdwatching groups.
“This campaign is unfortunately very much needed for our ducks as well as other wetland birds and wildlife, that all get disturbed, even if they are not having a gun barrel pointed at them,” said Jane Rusden, convener of Birdlife Castlemaine District.
“It’s mindless, especially when so much Australian wildlife is struggling for survival.”