Changes to the 2018 duck hunting season have been made due to the illegal behaviour of some hunters on the opening weekend of the 2017 season.
The start of last year’s season saw animal welfare groups collect 1246 dead waterbirds from Koorangie State Game Reserve near Kerang, with 984 of them abandoned or unrecovered game ducks and 260 protected species.
This was in addition to further reports of illegal hunting from elsewhere in Victoria.
‘‘Over the opening weekend of the 2017 duck season, illegal or irresponsible behaviour was displayed by a number of duck hunters,’’ a Game Management Authority spokesperson said.
‘‘This included early shooting, the shooting of protected species and the failure to recover downed birds. Some of these problems have been ongoing issues.
‘‘In order for duck hunting to remain sustainable, safe and humane, hunters must attain the highest standards of behaviour and comply with the law,’’ the spokesperson said.
The main changes for the 2018 season include a later starting time of 9am on the opening Saturday and 8am on the opening Sunday, and duck hunters will now be required to make all reasonable attempts to immediately recover downed ducks and also salvage the breast meat as a minimum from harvested birds.
The GMA will also increase the pass score for the Waterfowl Identification Test — the test to obtain a duck hunting licence — to 85 per cent, from 75 per cent.
Long-time duck hunter and Greater Shepparton City councillor Dennis Patterson said he was in favour of the new changes.
‘‘I generally support them. The last 10 years bad people, who are not good for the sport, are getting back into it,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a good opportunity to clean up the sport after some bad elements have been creeping in.’’
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Member for Northern Victoria Daniel Young was not so happy about the changes.
‘‘Moving the opening time to 9am is a recipe for disaster due to the proximity in which protesters can legally enter the wetlands at 10am,’’ Mr Young said.
‘‘Protesters have proven to be extremely hostile towards hunters. The traditional times allowed hunters to go in without interference and have plenty of time to bag their limit of birds for the day.’’
Coalition Against Duck Hunting campaign director Laurie Levy said occupational health and safety regulations protected duck shooters who acted illegally from prosecution.
‘‘It’s extremely difficult for the government to prosecute duck shooters as Game Management Authority (GMA) compliance officers cannot enter the water due to occupational health and safety regulations,’’ Mr Levy said.
Despite the changes to starting times for the opening weekend, for the rest of the season hunting times will revert to the standard period of half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.
■The 2018 season will start on Saturday, March 17, and will last 12 weeks, closing on Monday, June 11.