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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Muttonbird kill protest

The Mercury: Muttonbird kill protest [20jan06]

MORE than 400,000 shearwater chicks hatching this week could be killed during this year's muttonbird season, protesters said yesterday.

More than half could be taken by recreational muttonbirders during the season beginning late March, rally organiser Against Animal Cruelty Tasmania said.

And no action was taken on the black market in birds, commonly seen at roadside stalls, AACT co-ordinator Yvette Watt said.

Rallies outside Service Tasmania outlets in Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Ulverstone called for an end to recreational taking of the birds.

Eggs began hatching this week, with the 16-day recreational season kicking in when chicks were fattest.

"The massive numbers slaughtered for fun by these amateurs are of great concern. There is shocking suffering caused to the chicks by people who don't know how to kill them properly, as well as by those who haul the chicks out of their burrows using sharpened hooks. That's prohibited but it's a common practice," Ms Watt said.

"For just $23, an amateur can kill up to 25 chicks a day over 16 days for personal use, which would be 400 birds a person."

Short-tailed shearwaters travel 30,000km to the northern hemisphere and back each year and only Tasmania allows them to be killed.

"We have no way of knowing how many are being taken. There were over 1000 muttonbird licences bought last year," Ms Watt said.

She said the commercial season allowed about 200,000 birds to be killed but unknown numbers were poached.

AACT does not oppose the indigenous season.

Environment Minister Judy Jackson said the season was sustainable. Ms Jackson said there were an estimated 23 million of the species, with 209 colonies around Tasmania.

"While the number of recreational licences has increased in recent years, evidence shows the recreational season poses no threat to the overall population of the species which is regarded as secure," Ms Jackson said.

She said population studies began in 1947 and annual monitoring was done on a number of colonies.

She said the Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment supervised the annual season in conjunction with the Parks and Wildlife Service.

Last year Sydney tourist Vanessa Collins complained after she witnessed poaching on Bruny Island but her complaints were not followed up.

Campaigner Barry Hebbard said many birds also drowned in fishing nets and were killed by feral animals.


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