A Melbourne duck shooter has had his guns seized and gun licence suspended after being caught with illegal drugs on the opening weekend of duck season.
The man was filmed by an animal welfare campaigner’s drone, who contacted police after seeing what they believed to be a duck shooter snorting drugs off a camping table before hunting.
Police intercepted the shooter and found him in possession of a white powder. He received a diversion, avoiding a conviction.
It was one of a number of incidents recorded by campaigners’ cameras on the weekend, as they call for the state’s duck hunting season to be shut down early.
Other vision captured by animal welfare campaigners appears to show hunters failing to humanely kill wounded birds as required.
In one case, a hunter appears to throw a wounded duck into a boat to his two dogs.
There were also numerous apparent breaches of social-distancing rules by hunters huddled in boats, the campaigners claim.
However, the Game Management Authority, which patrols the wetlands during duck seasons, said it did not detect any breaches of regulations, despite having 12 officers on duty.
“The Game Management Authority and Victoria Police only have a certain amount of numbers — and there are vast wetlands right across Victoria,” Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick said.
“Who knows what offences are being committed? The only way we do know is where people pop up with footage like we’re seeing today.”
Authority to review activists’ footage
The head of the Sporting Shooters Association in Victoria, Jack Wegman, told the ABC the organisation “… expects all people visiting wetland areas to obey the laws and regulations governing hunting activities and social-distancing measures”.
The Game Management Authority said it would assess the footage of the alleged breaches this year, and decide whether to investigate further.
But the GMA has long been accused of turning a blind eye to bad behaviour on the wetlands.
Of 44 formal complaints lodged by witnesses on the wetlands in the past three years, only two have resulted in prosecutions.
Last year, the GMA was given an extra $6 million by the state government to improve enforcement.
But the former head of the Law Institute of Victoria’s Animal Welfare Committee, Nicky Neville-Jones, said she had no confidence the GMA would launch any prosecutions this year.
“History tells us it’s not going to happen this year, because it hasn’t happened previously. It’s not going to change,” she said.
Pressure mounts on Government from within Labor
Victoria is one of the few states that still allows recreational duck shooting in Australia and with each year, opposition has grown, especially as bird numbers have declined.
When the State Government announced in February that a shortened season would go ahead in 2020, many were surprised and disappointed, including some of its own backbenchers.
Labor MP Lizzie Blandthorn, who co-sponsored a successful motion to overturn Labor’s policy at the state conference in November, responded to the announcement on social media, saying:
“I was very disappointed in today’s announcement of a duck hunting season. I will continue to advocate for our feathered friends — indeed for all creatures great and small.”
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In a statement, a State Government spokesperson said the GMA took “compliance with hunting laws and animal welfare regulations seriously”.
“Illegal hunting and irresponsible behaviour will not be tolerated. Hunters who break the law face on-the-spot fines, may be prosecuted through the courts, have their equipment confiscated and lose their Game and Firearms licences,” the statement said.
“People are urged to report illegal hunting and breaches of public safety laws to the GMA through its website, the Customer Contact Centre on 136 186 or by contacting Victoria Police.”