Summary of data

The GMA’s recommendation to Government was based on assessments of rainfall data, wetland conditions, waterfowl abundance and distribution, harvest data and whether hunting activities could impact on the conservation status and sustainability of game duck populations.

See below a high-level summary of data considered when making a recommendation on the 2021 duck season arrangements.

Game duck abundance

  • The 2020 Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey (EAWS) showed that game duck abundance decreased by 23% from the previous year.
  • The 2020 EAWS showed that game duck abundance is 44% of the long-term average (7th lowest in 38 years).
  • Black Duck, Chestnut Teal, Hardhead, Mountain Duck and Pink-eared Duck increased from the previous year but were below the long-term average.

Grey Teal

  • The 2020 EAWS showed that Grey Teal numbers have declined by 50% in the last two decades from the previous two.
  • The 2020 EAWS showed that Grey Teal abundance index is 27% of the long-term average.
  • The 2020 South Australian surveys show Grey Teal abundance is at 11% of its long-term average.

New South Wales (NSW)

  • The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) 2020 survey of the Riverina showed that abundance increased by 15% on the previous year but was 63% lower than 2016 and 38% lower than the 2015-2020 average.

South Australia (SA)

  • The SA Department of Environment and Water coordinated a survey of 90 wetlands, covering 23,555 hectares of wetland area. The area surveyed was almost twice the average wetland area surveyed.
  • The total game duck abundance recorded was 25% of the long-term average and the lowest abundance estimate in the 17 years of surveys.

Waterbird breeding

  • The 2020 EAWS recorded little incidence of breeding.  What breeding there was, was dominated by Black Swans (81%), then Wood Duck (17%) and Grey Teal (2%).
  • With the exception of survey data from 2016, there has been little large-scale breeding since 2010.

Game duck distribution

  • Game ducks were more dispersed than in 2019, reflecting an increase in habitat in the Murray-Darling Basin.
  • Game ducks were most abundant in northern NSW (band 5) and northern QLD (band 10).

Habitat availability

2013 - 2019

  • With the exception of survey data from 2016, since 2013, much of eastern Australia received below average rainfall.
  • From 2017-2019, large parts of Australia experienced drought.  The Murray-Darling Basin experienced its worst 2-3 year drought in over 120 years.
  • At December 2019, 99.7% of NSW and 66% of QLD was drought affected.
  • The 2019 EAWS wetland area index was the lowest in 38 years and 69% below the long-term average.


  • In 2020, most of Australia experienced average to below average rainfall.  Half of NSW experienced above average rainfall.
  • At December 2020, 67% of QLD, 70% of South Australia and 10% of NSW was in drought or drought affected.  Most of Victoria experienced average rainfall.
  • Australian water storages increased marginally from to previous year – 48.7% to 52.3%.
  • Victorian storages increased from 49% to 65.7%.
  • Murray-Darling storages increased from 38.8% to 59.2%.  Southern basin storages were at 66% but northern storages were at 25%.
  • While water from rainfall made its way into storages, little reached wetlands to significant increase game duck habitat.  The 2020 EAWS wetland area index was 42% of the long-term average (5th lowest in 38 years).
  • BOM has stated that persistent, widespread above average rainfall is needed at annual and longer timescales to provide relief from four years of below average rainfall.

2020 harvest estimates

  • 60,400 ducks were harvested in 2020. Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions and a modified duck season reduced the level of take.
  • 32% of hunters were active, hunting for 4 days harvesting 8 ducks in total for the season at an average of 2 ducks per day.
  • Black Duck made up 46% of the total seasonal take, Wood Duck 30% and Grey Teal 10%.  These species normally constitute 30% each.

Long-term trends

  • Waterbird abundance, breeding and habitat availability are all showing long-term declines over the last 40 years.  This can be attributed to river regulation and a drying climate.
  • Hunting during periods when there is little recruitment removes breeding adults which not only reduces the population at the time but can negatively affect subsequent recruitment, driving further decline.