Black swans will be in the firing line in order to protect the Tauranga’s environment, says Fish & Game Eastern Region.
Over the past 10 years, the black swan population in the Bay of Plenty has been increasing.
A swan hunt, involving hunters with issued licences, is planned for this weekend.
The Eastern Fish and Game Council, which manages sports fish and game birds in this region, is responsible for keeping populations at manageable sizes so they do not have a detrimental effect on other natural resources or users of the harbour, says manager Rob Pitkethley.
“We acknowledge some people are uncomfortable with these hunts, but we have a responsibility to act on the concerns of harbour-side property owners and public users, farmers whose crops are damaged, and airport officials who at times have voiced concern that the birds pose a threat to air traffic safety.
“We also have a duty to our game bird licence holders who are hunting these birds quite legally, as black swans are on the game bird schedule. This group of hunters operates within all the rules and regulations, and they are expected to adhere to our game bird hunting code of conduct.”
Rob says some local residents concerned at the fouling of harbour sandbars and beaches are also keen to see limits on swan numbers.
He says there is strong scientific evidence of the environmental damage they can do, including a study which shows black swan populations over 5000 pose a threat to seagrass meadows, which are known to be important nursery habitats for juvenile snapper.
There is also research to show that while the black swans are a native species, they can withstand moderate harvest measures, says Rob.
Fish & Game’s involvement is limited to issuing a permit to “disturb” the birds, which is usually outside of game bird hunting regulation.
“The permit we issue, which allows the swan population reduction, is all about authorising people to proceed in a safe and effective manner.
“The permit allows the birds to be guided by boat to an area where they can be harvested with no risk to members of the public.
“There are limits on the number of swans allowed to be harvested by each hunter to ensure the population remains at a sustainable level.”
Rob says it should also be noted that no ratepayer or taxpayer money is spent on the hunt.
“It is all funded by the individual hunters taking part. Fish & Game works closely with the Department of Conservation to maintain the population levels of the black swan.”