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2019 Duck and quail open seasons

Duck and quail hunting seasons have been approved for South Australia in 2019

Following an assessment of rainfall data, wetland condition, waterfowl abundance, and also considering whether hunting activities could impact on the conservation and sustainability of waterfowl populations, the South Australian Government has declared a restricted duck hunting open season and a restricted quail hunting open season for 2019. 

The information used in this assessment was derived from the Bureau of Meteorology, the annual DEW wetland and waterfowl survey, the Eastern Australia Aerial Waterbird Survey and various remotely sensed landscape condition data. 

The information available in 2018 on duck populations and habitat condition shows favourable indicators in parts of South Australia but average to below average indicators regarding wetland habitat, waterbird abundance and waterbird breeding for Eastern Australia as a whole. Duck abundance indicators in 2018 in South Australia have increased compared to 2017, while results from the 36th Eastern Australia Aerial Waterbird Survey undertaken by the University of New South Wales suggest that duck abundance has fallen since 2017 while waterbird breeding metrics are poor both locally and across Eastern Australia. 

Climatic conditions in 2018 have been below average at both the local South Australian and south-east Australian scale. Significant areas of the Murray-Darling Basin are in drought and south-east Australia has had below average rains. Average rainfall is forecast across most of southern Australia for the coming summer, while both minima and maxima temperature are forecast to be well above average. 

Results from the Eastern Australia Aerial Waterbird Survey indicate that wetland habitat is well below the long-term average at the continental scale across eastern Australia. Similarly, total water bird abundance (including species other than game ducks) is at the ninth lowest level recorded in 36 years of surveys. Breeding abundance, breeding species richness and wetland area are reduced from 2017, and continue to reflect long-term average declines linked to the loss of wetland habitat.

There are currently areas of wetland habitat suitable for duck in South Australia, but these likely represent important duck refuge at the continental-scale. While South Australian duck abundance is increased relative to 2017, the decrease in duck abundance and breeding, coupled with poor habitat condition at a continental-scale recorded by the Eastern Australia Aerial Waterbird Survey suggests a need for restrictions on the open season for duck in South Australia including alignment between the start of the open season with Victoria's open season.

With Stubble Quail, less is known about their biology and natural history, with knowledge restricted to their preferred areas of habitat which include pasture and cereal crop areas. Stubble Quail are highly nomadic, cryptic, and cover dependant. Recommendations for a restricted bag limit, but a ‘traditional’ length open season for Stubble Quail have been based on the condition of their preferred habitat areas to infer relative abundance. Landscape condition modelling and agronomic statistics have been used as surrogates to help inform decision making about pasture growth rates, cover, and food availability. These data have indicated that some restriction on the 2019 quail open season is warranted. 

Recommendations for the 2019 duck and quail open seasons are based on 2018 data and projections for 2019. Should conditions deteriorate or circumstances change, the Minister may revoke or revise the open season declarations.  

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