A NUMBER of lakes and wetlands around the region will be closed to duck shooters this season, which begins March 16, due to the presence of threatened bird species, the Game Management Authority has announced.
Lake Lonsdale will be closed the entire season due to a large number of threatened freckled ducks.
Birdlife Australia lists the bird as the rarest waterfowl in Australia, which is often confused with the more common pacific black duck.
At Pine Lake, hunting from boats will be prohibited due to the presence of a large number of blue-billed ducks.
However, hunters will be permitted to use non-motorised boats to retrieve shot birds hunted from the shoreline.
Lake Linlithgow will be closed on opening weekend due to the presence of blue-billed ducks.
For the rest of the season, hunting from boats will be prohibited but hunters can use non-motorised boats to collect birds shot from the shoreline.
At Lake Bolac hunting from boats will be prohibited due to the presence of a large number of threatened blue-billed and freckled ducks.
Again, hunters will be permitted to use non-motorised boats to retrieve downed birds hunted from the shoreline.
Tower Hill State Game Reserve (near Warrnambool) will be partially closed to hunting due to the presence of a significant number of blue-billed ducks.
The western half of the lake will be closed to hunting but the eastern half will remain open.
Round Lake, part of the Cope Cope State Game Reserve, will be closed the entire season due to a large number of freckled and blue-billed ducks present.
Game Management Authority chief executive Graeme Ford said closing wetlands or prohibiting hunting from boats ensures threatened species are protected and hunting is sustainable.
"Through closing wetlands or regulating hunting methods, such as boating, where appropriate and paying close attention to bird numbers, we're able to ensure rare and threatened species are protected," Mr Ford said.
"Government officials will monitor the closed wetlands throughout the season. If the reason for the closure no longer exists, they will be recommended to be reopened."
Coalition Against Duck Shooting founder Laurie Levy said volunteers played a large role in determining where threatened species were each season.
"The crew go out late January to start looking at wetlands, to look at the threatened species like curlew sandpipers and freckled duck," he said.
"Once we find them, we send professionals in to count them and those lists go to Birdlife Australia and Animals Australia.
"They submit them to the government and a lot wetlands have been closed off to shooting."
Mr Levy said the state government had been very quick to close off wetlands where threatened species were present.
"Last year, close to Easter, one of our crew found close to 1000 curlew sandpipers at Lake Martin, near Cressy, and the then minister Jaala Pulford was very quick to close that wetland off," he said.
"The government did a very good job of closing that wetland off to shooting straight away and it remained closed until they left for their long journey home."
But Mr Levy said it still wasn't enough.
"There shouldn't have been a season this year because of the serious droughts we're having," he said.
"The temperature has certainly risen and the amount of hot days over 40 degrees is increasing all the time now, which means climate change is very real and hitting hard.
"Bird numbers are down around the lowest ever.
"There should have been a moratorium but we have to go out there again and take our mobile veterinary service and do the best we can, because the job of looking after native water birds of Australia has been left to volunteers and the public."
The Game Management Authority said hunters are reminded they are required to immediately retrieve any ducks they shoot and ensure they harvest at least the breast meat from the duck.
Game Officers, Victoria Police and other authorised officers from DELWP, DJPR, Victorian Fisheries Authority and Parks Victoria will be patrolling wetlands across the state during the duck season to ensure hunters act in a safe and responsible manner.
For more information on the duck season, please visit www.gma.vic.gov.au
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