At a recent meeting called by the Macropod Management Unit, Wildlife Queensland was encouraged by the involvement of new online technology and some significant positive changes over the past 12 months.
The meeting focussed on the 2017 Quota submissions for the Commercially Harvested Macropods in Queensland and the Nature Conservation (Macropod) Conservation Plan 2017 current as at 1 September 2017, which maintains the overriding policies of the Queensland government to provide for the sustainable harvest and use of three species of macropods: eastern grey, red and wallaroo.
Those present were informed about Connect, the new online service platform adopted across the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. Specific activities now conducted through Connect include applying for various licences, changing details of licence holders, applying for harvest tags and returning books.
Having advocated for years for the recreational harvesting licence to be done away with, Wildlife Queensland was pleased to hear that this had finally occurred. From January 2018, those wishing to hunt recreationally will have to meet the same rigorous standards as a commercial shooter and apply for a Macropod Harvesting Licence. The administrative changes to the Conservation Plan include the need for a licence applicant to be over 18 years old, hold a current firearms licence and satisfy humane shooting testing. The new national humane shooting test target is now smaller (75 mm diameter) than the previously approved target at 100metres or 100yards.
Population estimates for 2016 and quotas for 2017 across all harvest zones:
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Examination of long-term trends in population and block density estimates indicates the 2016 estimates of population are within the realm of fluctuations in previous years. The quotas for commercial harvest are informed by criteria including population trends, reviews of previous harvests, the extent of non-commercial harvest mortality, the extent of areas not subject to any harvest, and rainfall trends. Aerial surveys are conducted on monitor blocks across Queensland.
The macropod harvest program is underpinned by science. Animal welfare issue are addressed and there is a strong compliance and enforcement program in place. Also in recent years the actual harvest of the various macropods species taken overall has not exceeded 35 percent and in the case of most species is lower. It must be noted that there are significant areas of the state as well as national parks, state forests and other protected areas where the harvest of macropods is not allowed.
Frequently throughout the presentation the issue of macropods taken under Damage Mitigation Permits (DMPs) was raised. While it is acknowledged that the issuance of DMPs is legal there are major concerns that the same rigorous requirements imposed on commercial harvesters are not applied to DMPs; conditions are imposed but compliance is not necessarily monitored. Wildlife Queensland has been lobbying for years to have this addressed without success.
Verbal evidence was provided at the meeting of just how big an issue shrapnel contamination is, not from commercial shooters but from other sources. The meeting was advised of the increased amount of compliance work currently being undertaken by the wildlife team but also the difficulties in gaining sufficient evidence to prosecute illegal activity. However within the commercial industry generally the overall compliance of the industry was good with the take-home message being that licencing, tag sales and compliance actions had remained very consistent over the last few years. A summary of the total amount of warning notices, Penalty Infringement Notices and prosecutions will be available in the 2017 Annual Report due for release in March 2018 along with harvest.
Wildlife Queensland is not opposed to the commercial harvest of macropods in accordance with the Nature Conservation (Macropod) Conservation plan 2017 and the 2017 Quota Submissions for Commercially Harvested Macropods in Queensland. There is no doubt that the provision of additional waters, crops and pasture through agricultural development has benefited macropods. Granted their numbers fluctuate but their distribution and populations within their natural range are not at risk.
There is a concern that if there is not a strong, robust kangaroo harvesting industry the demand for DMPs will escalate and illegal means will more than likely be introduced to reduce numbers with the outcome that animal welfare issues will grow exponentially. Wildlife Queensland will continue to monitor this industry, lobby the Government of the day for enhanced conditions for DMPs, and bring to the notice of the relevant authorities matters which will provide better animal welfare.