Today’s celebrations of World Wetlands Day are tainted by the plans to shoot native ducks on our wetlands in just a few weeks.

Widely known as the Ramsar Convention, the Convention on Wetlands (1971) is an international agreement which recognises wetland areas of international significance.

Tasmania currently has ten recognised Ramsar wetlands.

Yet during the annual duck shooting season, these fragile wetlands — usually peaceful havens for our unique wildlife — are transformed into government-sanctioned killing fields.

Moulting Lagoon is one of our ten Ramsar wetlands. Unbelievably, it is also the main site for the annual slaughter of ducks.

An average of 538 ducks will be shot across the state every single day of the 3-month season.

Native ducks (and sometimes even endangered and protected birds) are gunned down by shooters, their fragile bodies shattered by pellets. The ‘lucky’ ones are killed instantly. The unlucky ones – an estimated one out of every four birds shot – will suffer for days or even weeks before finally succumbing to their injuries. The result is decimated wetlands, and birds left to suffer with shattered bills and broken wings.

Jan Davis, RSPCA Chief Executive, said that “Perhaps most awful of all is the fact that this cruelty is inflicted upon defenceless creatures in the name of a ‘sport’ that involves less than 0.2% of our population – and that the majority of caring Australians oppose.”

Annual surveys conducted on the mainland have shown over the last decade that the species of birds which are shot have been in serious decline, and the breeding numbers have not kept pace with how many are being shot. Unfortunately, the reliability of data related to Tasmanian wetlands does not allow for objective conclusions on the state of local or migratory duck populations and we have no meaningful information as to the impact of extreme weather events and climate change on duck species and numbers. However, the information that is available confirms a significant downward trend over the last decade in numbers of the species permitted to be shot.

Tourism Tasmania surveys have found that 46% of domestic visitors list their primary reason for visiting Tasmania as to see the flora and fauna. A recent national visitor survey undertaken for Tourism Australia also identified that a growing number of Australians engage in bird watching domestically, making this a highly profitable activity, injecting much-needed funds into regional economies.

At the same time, a nationwide survey found that 51% of people would ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ avoid duck hunting areas for holiday destinations.

So we know that recreational duck shooting is limiting Tasmania’s tourism potential.

“Tasmania is blessed with the natural assets to become a world-recognised bird watching hub. Our native birdlife and wetlands already exist and little infrastructure is needed to generate significant benefits to regional communities. It makes no sense for the tiny minority of people involved in recreational duck shooting to have a right of use over these public lands that excludes the many people that wish to pursue other less destructive activities,” according to Ms Davis.

Only two mainland states still permit recreational duck shooting – Victoria and South Australia. In recent weeks, the governments of both states have announced they are reviewing their duck shooting laws.

Ms Davis said “Community attitudes have changed massively over recent years and recreational duck shooting is no longer acceptable to the majority of people. In the midst of an extinction crisis, and with thousands of water birds already under extreme stress, it is more urgent than ever that this annual slaughter be stopped.”

“We need to really question how the Tasmanian government can reconcile killing and maiming tens of thousands of ducks each year with the clean green image that we’re trying to present to the rest of the world,” she added.

“We call on the government to announce a plan to end this cruel and unnecessary slaughter once and for all. This should take the form of a phased ban from 2027 on recreational duck shooting. This should include immediately reducing the daily take limit from 10 birds per hunter to 4 and declaring that shooting in Ramsar wetlands will no longer be permitted.”

Jan Davis, CEO – RSPCA Tasmania
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