August 9, 2002
Chris Tollefson, Nicholas Throckmorton, 202/208-5634
The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service today proposed to maintain hunting regulations
similar to those offered in recent years for most species of ducks,
but restrict opportunities for some species due to continuing concerns
about population status and a poor production outlook this spring in
key nesting areas. Under the Services late season frameworks proposal,
hunting-season lengths for pintails will be much more restrictive and
the season for canvasbacks will be closed.
For most duck species, however, the Service is proposing to continue
the same season lengths and bag limits that have been offered since
1997. Earlier this year, the Service also agreed to extend by about
a week the earliest opening and latest closing dates that individual
States can use to set their hunting seasons.
While it is clear that habitat conditions in the prairies and
parklands of mid-continent North America will lead to a reduced fall
flight compared to last year, duck numbers are still sufficiently high
to offer the hunting opportunities that these seasons afford,
said Service Director Steve Williams. In light of the unusual
situation this year, we have chosen to restrict hunting for selected
duck species whose populations remain a concern rather than impose blanket
reductions in the upcoming waterfowl season.
The Services proposal was developed after consultation with representatives
from the four Flyway Councils (Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific),
which provide state wildlife agencies a formal mechanism to assist the
Service with cooperative management of North Americas waterfowl
populations. The Service will soon publish its proposal in the Federal
Register and is accepting public comments on the proposal until August
30. After the Service publishes its final late season frameworks in
early September, States will set their own season dates, lengths and
bag limits within the guidelines the frameworks establish.
Under the proposal, the hunting season on pintails would be reduced
from 107 to 60 days in the Pacific Flyway, from 74 to 39 days in the
Central Flyway, and from 60 to 30 days in the Mississippi and Atlantic
Flyways, with a bag limit of one pintail per day in each flyway. The
Service is proposing to close the hunting season on canvasbacks because
of recent population declines and a poor outlook for production. Canvasbacks
are extremely sensitive to breeding habitat conditions, and season closures
have been used in the past because of their relatively low abundance.
Breeding populations of scaup remain well below their long-term average,
and as a result the Service is proposing to maintain restrictions enacted
in 1999 that reduced the bag limit from six (seven in the Pacific Flyway)
to three (four in the Pacific Flyway) per day. Restrictions on the harvest
of black ducks in the Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways that have been
in place for a number of years would be continued this year.
The Services proposal to allow relatively liberal hunting regulations
for most species of ducks was based on biological assessments, primarily
on the mallard, conducted within a process known as Adaptive Harvest
Management (AHM), which was developed by the Service and Flyway Councils
to bring more scientific rigor and objectivity to the regulations-setting
process. This year, those assessments suggested that such hunting opportunities
were consistent with the long-term welfare of waterfowl populations.
More information on the Adaptive Harvest Management process can be found
on the Services internet site at:
A number of factors aside from season length and bag limits, such as
the vagaries of weather, duck migratory behavior and other uncontrollable
environmental factors, can affect hunter success. Certainly, we
cannot guarantee good hunting success in any year. However, our proposal
will provide hunters the maximum level of opportunity that is consistent
with both the need to maintain healthy duck populations and incorporates
the best available science on waterfowl populations, said Williams.
Nonetheless, the Service acknowledges that this year may mark a turning
point from recent years of relatively good habitat conditions in the
mid-continent nesting areas. Whether more restrictions on hunting
opportunities for ducks may be coming depends heavily on breeding-ground
habitat conditions next year, which of course are hard to predict at
this time, said Williams. In addition, the Service and Flyway
Councils are working together to expand the capability of the AHM process
to more directly account for the biology, status, and migratory behavior
of a larger number of duck species.
For detailed descriptions of the Services regulatory proposals,
consult the Division of Migratory Bird Managements home page at
http://migratorybirds.fws.gov or contact the Division of Migratory Bird
Management at (703) 358-1714. Comments will be accepted through August
30, and may be sent to Chief, Office of Migratory Bird Management, U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Dr., Room 634, Arlington,
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