UPDATE 2pm: Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting spokeswoman Kerrie Allen said that while this year’s Game Management Authority closures of several wetlands were an improvement on past measures, they were still not adequate and the season needed to end.
She voiced concerns about declining bird numbers and the impact of the season on threatened species, and called for Victoria to instead leverage nature-based tourism.
A University of New South Wales Centre for Ecosystem Science waterbird survey found that while waterbird abundance in eastern Australia increased from 2016 to 2017, it remained well below average.
Ms Allen cited a report, prepared for Outdoors Victoria and Sport and Recreation Victoria, that said there was $7.4 billion spent on nature-based outdoor activities in the state in 2015.
A GMA report said duck hunting contributed $43 million to the economy in 2013.
EARLIER: High numbers of threatened birds will see the closure or partial closure of several wetlands when the 2018 duck hunting season opens this weekend.
The Game Management Authority has released its list of off-limits wetlands, which include a number in central and northern Victoria.
Among them are Koorangie State Game Reserve, which encompasses First, Second and Third Marsh and Lake Bael Bael near Kerang, due to the numbers of Freckled Duck and Blue-billed Duck.
Nearby Lake Elizabeth, Racecourse Lake, Cullen's Lake and Lake Charm will all remain open to hunting.
The number of Freckled Duck has also led to the closure of Browns Lake, near Donald, as well as a private wetland south of Stanhope, near the intersection of Two-Tree Road and Girgarre-Rushworth Road.
Hird Swamp State Game Reserve, near Kerang, will be closed on the western side over the opening weekend only to minimise disturbances to Australasian Bittern.
Kow Swamp near Gunbower and Reedy Lakes at Kerang will again be closed for the entire season.
"Through closing wetlands where appropriate and paying close attention to bird numbers we are able to ensure that rare and threatened species are protected,” GMA chief executive officer Greg Hyams said.
Mr Hyams said officials would monitor wetlands throughout the season and would recommend reopenings if there was no longer a need for them to be closed.
Other wetlands subject to closures or restrictions include Lake Linlithgow, near Hamilton; Lake Lonsdale, near Stawell; Lake Muirhead State Game Reserve, south-west of Ararat; Lake Martin, near Cressy; Tower Hill State Game Reserve, near Warrnambool; Lake Bolac; waters near the Spit Wildlife Reserve and Western Treatment Plant; and Brickworks Billabong, near Mildura.
The duck hunting season opens on March 17 and closes June 11.
There is a bag limit of 10 birds per person per day, and the hunting of the Blue-winged Shoveler is prohibited.
New regulations require the immediate recovery of downed birds and that hunters, at a minimum, salvage all the breast meat.
For more information on the closures and restrictions, visit the GMA website.