For the first time in 30 years, the campaign director of the¬†Coalition Against Duck Shooting, Laurie Levy,¬†will not be at the opening of the 2016 duck hunting season after being banned from the wetlands for six months.
According to a report in The Age, Mr Levy, 74, pleaded guilty in the¬†Melbourne Magistrates¬†Court on Wednesday to obstructing a game officer by grabbing his¬†boat at the start of this year’s season.¬†Mr Levy was fined¬†$500 for obstruction and $250 for entering the water before 10am.
Before duck hunters rejoice at the absence of the long-nosed freckled fibber,¬†he will likely be replaced by Lyn White, the campaign director of Animals Australia.
Mr Levy, described by supporters as a “hero for waterbirds”, told Fairfax Media the battle continued despite his ban. “We’ve fought so many court cases over the years, I’ve lost track of them all. It’s another battleground. We fight on the wetlands and we fight in the court.”
Mr Levy said¬†it felt “strange” that he wouldn’t be at the opening of the recreational duck-shooting season¬†but¬†had the¬†utmost confidence in Ms White. “The good thing is Australia’s best campaigner, Lyn White, will be on the front line taking my place.
“It will shock the Labor government and also shock the Game Management Authority, which is the quasi-government¬†department that oversees the duck-shooting season.”
There is doubt whether¬†the 2016 season will proceed due to environmental concerns and native¬†water¬†birds being at their lowest¬†level since surveys began 33 years ago.
The¬†Game Management Authority¬†is monitoring conditions in its report “Considerations for the 2016 season” and notes there are 26,000 licensed hunters in Victoria.
Mr Levy said that when he started campaigning¬†in 1986, there were 100,000 hunters. “The culture has changed and duck shooting is no longer acceptable.”
Ms White, a former police officer in South Australia, has campaigned about the treatment of live exported animals and provided evidence to the ABC’s¬†Four Corners¬†that resulted in¬†the suspension¬†of live exports to Indonesia.
She urged the state government to cancel the 2016 season.¬†”Wetland habitat for native water birds is at the lowest level ever recorded since surveys started some 33 years ago,” Ms White said.¬†
“There is glaring evidence that the environmental conditions are in fact much worse than when duck seasons were cancelled on environmental grounds in 2007 and 2008.”
Ms White also praised the irreplaceable and “heroic” work of Mr Levy. “To see Victoria’s prime protector of waterbirds over the past 30 years, Laurie Levy, banned from the wetlands for six¬†months, for actions that most Victorians would applaud, is an enormous travesty of justice.”
David McNabb, the general manager of Field and Game Australia and a hunter for 21 years, said his organisation ‚Äúacknowledges¬†and respects”¬†people to have a point of view but not when they break the law.
“Hunting is a¬†lawful, legitimate activity that is highly regulated.¬†Hunters in Victoria¬†and throughout Australia contribute more to the active preservation of wetlands than many other groups.”
He said the¬†conditions weren’t¬†dire and believed the season should proceed.
Colin Wood, a duck hunter for 55 years and chairman of the¬†Shooting Sports Council of Victoria, noted Mr Levy’s “nuisance value” and said it was “high time” he was banned for interfering with a legal activity.
“These people are putting themselves in harm’s way deliberately,” he said. “It’s annoying to all of us and a serious danger.