Muttonbirds are migratory birds, negotiating a 30,000 km round-trip every year in order to breed in the same burrow in southeast Australia. This year’s shearwater hunting season will run from 31 March until 15 April.
Animals Australia Executive Director, Glenys Oogjes, said, “Instead of being welcomed as an addition to Tasmanian wildlife, the chicks hatched in Tasmania will be taken from their borrows and brutally killed. That they are killed simply for fun is appalling.”
During the recreational hunt, amateur ‘muttonbirders’ are permitted to remove and kill up to 25 chicks per day for the duration of the16-day open season; based on the 2006 figure of 1,058 hunter permits, this means that the Tasmanian government is permitting the potential annual slaughter of more than 420,000 chicks. More than 200,000 more birds are permitted to be killed for the commercial hunt.
Despite its status as an abundant species, the short-tailed shearwater is, like much of Australia’s wildlife, in danger from habitat loss and food shortages caused by global warming meaning that there is no guarantee of the long-term survival of the species. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of birds killed in Tasmania, many thousands more die in fishing nets and in storms during migration. There is also serious concern for the sustainability of the recreational hunt because of the enormous damage done to the fragile rookeries and sand dunes by muttonbirders.
Ms Oogjes concluded, “The Tasmanian government must act to end this unjustified slaughter of these extraordinary birds. It is a dreadful blight on the image of Tasmania that birds that fly 15,000 kms to find a safe haven to hatch their chicks in their state are rewarded with the brutal killing of their young.
“The Tasmanian government must come into line with current thinking and end this hunt.
“Following their huge journey to Australia, these birds should be rewarded with protection, not met with a massacre”.