Riddell (left) and Irwin: no data to back up their claims?

Call for bans on indigenous hunting

Two wildlife campaigners have called for a complete ban on the hunting of any threatened or vulnerable species among the 50 that may be taken by indigenous Australians under native title laws.

Bob Irwin and Colin Riddell on the weekend repeated their demands that hunting of dugongs and sea turtles be stopped because of what Irwin said was a “rapid and unwarranted decline” in their numbers and the threat of extinction.

Irwin did not back up his claims with figures, but Department of Environment information suggests dugong populations have been stable or slightly declining during the past two decades or so. Dugongs are a threatened species.

“Dedicated aerial surveys of populations indicate that dugongs are the most abundant marine mammal in the inshore waters of northern Australia,” the department states.

Despite this, Irwin and Riddell now claim a moratorium on hunting would be “futile”.

Irwin is the father of the late Steve “Crocodile Man” Irwin and runs his own wildlife conservation foundation, while Riddell is a self-styled activist who goes by the names Colinwhocares and dungongman.

Riddell has previously succeeded in ensuring laws concerning the humane treatment of hunted animals are applied to indigenous Australians, a move that was welcomed after footage was aired of indigenous hunters butchering sea turtles that were still alive.

However, his campaign ultimately wants to stop the hunting of species listed as threatened or vulnerable, and he makes accusations of over-hunting and unethical activities to back up his cause.

Australia has a threat abatement plan to try to manage populations of sea mammals, although there are currently no limits put on what indigenous hunters can take.

Many sea mammal populations are slow to increase, so harvests must be carefully managed to be sustainable.

Irwin and Riddell, though, are not calling for management and appear to be on an anti-hunting crusade as much as a conservation mission.

“The killing has to stop,” Irwin said.

“I agree there are other threats to the survival of the two species, but unmonitored unregulated hunting adds to the chances of becoming extinct,” Riddell said.

They have not produced statistics that verify whether sea mammals are being over-hunted, nor evidence that hunting is being carried out at unsustainable levels.

[This story was updated 11/3/13 to correct an error concerning the number and status of species that Riddell and Irwin want excluded from hunting.]




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.