Independent Inquiry Into GMA's Ministerial Briefing 2021

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The findings will be no suprise to hunters however the independent inquiry commisiioned by Field & Game Australia (FGA) confirm our worst fears and highlight the injustice that hunters are experiencing. 

Field & Game Australia (FGA) commissioned an independent inquiry to the Game Management Authority’s Ministerial Briefing 2021 – duck season recommendations 2021 (MB-21) to assess whether the reduction in the bag limits and season length, for the 2021 duck season in Victoria, was reasonably justified from the data presented.

This independent inquiry was led by Dr. Grahame Webb, an eminent academic and a leading environmental scientist. 

The ten page report has sectioned off headings. The one titled Should FGA be concerned? really hits home the fight that is ahead of duck hunters. 

1. FGA should rightly be concerned that serious efforts by GMA are underway to restrict duck hunting in Victoria, regardless of scientific evidence, and the veiled threat about whether duck hunting may no longer continue in Victoria should be taken seriously.

2. It is very clear GMA is opposed to duck hunting, and duck hunters, for reasons that are unclear but deserve investigation. The senior staff of the GMA appear ideologically and politically motivated, and arguably, are using their position to mislead the Minister.

3. It is unclear how long GMA have been providing obvious misinformation to the Minister, because the previous advice given to the Minister has been confidential. MB-2021 is a document that masquerades as a science-based assessment. In reality it is a pseudoscientific assessment, promoting the ideological positions of the vegan-animal rights movement. As a matter of urgency the advice given to the minister in previous years needs to be accessed to determine whether the obvious biases and misleading advice in MB-2021 are part of an ongoing plan by GMA to stop duck hunting.

4. GMA’s or their equivalent occur in many states, in many countries around the world, and their focus is typically on providing credible scientific, evidence-based management and regulation of waterfowl hunting. This appears to be the aim of the Wildlife (Game) Regulations 2012 - but has been ignored and subverted by GMA.

The Scientific Evidence

1. The “triple-bottom line” approach taken by GMA in MB-2021 means that evidence for and against hunting is not restricted to science. Animal rights ideologies and values, based on social assumptions and issues about ethics and morality, is treated as equally important as data on climate, biology, population trends, economic factors, contribution to conservation action, and management practices and principles.

2. Refuting science-based issues, in isolation, will not constitute compelling evidence to GMA, and the advice they provide to the minister, that MB-2021 is seriously flawed. But it is a critical step in the process, needed to demonstrate its short comings.

3. The Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey (EAWS) is a key element of the evidence submitted by anti-hunting organisations and used in MB-2021. This long-term waterbird survey is a valuable resource, but it is “policy relevant” rather than “policy prescriptive” – it has been used prescriptively in MB-2021. This limitation was fundamental to the actions proposed in the Adaptive Harvest Management plan.

Conclusions

Point four sends it home. GMA’s handling of the 2021 duck hunting season, as embodied within MB-2021, serves to highlight a flawed decision-making process, intimately linked to the directions on how to handle the “triple bottom line” concept being vague and open to abuse and misleading advice.

The full report is a must read and a glimpse at what hunting in Australia is up against. You can read the full report here.

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