APRIL 7, 2021―California Waterfowl’s Board of Directors took action last week on an issue of great concern to the organization, the membership and waterfowl hunters in California: the health of California’s breeding population of mallards.
The action taken by the board was to recommend reducing the mallard bag limit from 7 to 5 per day (with no more than 1 hen) for the 2021-22 season. We reached this decision out of an abundance of caution and concern for our local waterfowl, and because we are proud to be part of the century-long tradition of hunters sacrificing willingly to ensure that hunting never poses a threat to the long-term health of any wildlife population.
In light of long-term declines in California mallard breeding and wintering numbers, a loss of many thousands of mallards from avian botulism at the Klamath refuges last summer, and expected poor nesting and brood water conditions this spring, the board saw an opportunity to take swift action, with the Fish and Game Commission scheduled to set the 2021-22 regulations on April 14.
In the ensuing days, though, we heard from scores of members and other concerned hunters, and two things became clear: There is unanimity that something needs to be done for California’s mallards, but also concern that we needed to take more time to vet our options thoroughly with the science community, and to consult and build consensus with our hunting community. Both of these communities are vitally important to our work.
So tonight, the board voted to postpone recommending regulatory remedies for the state’s declining mallard population for one season. During this time, CWA’s professional staff will work deliberately with researchers to assess regulatory options and their likely effects on mallard populations, and to share those options with the public and invite feedback. Whatever action our board takes one year from now, we want to be sure it surprises no one, and most importantly, that it continues hunters’ proud heritage of being, hands-down, the most effective advocates for wildlife populations, both in word and in deed.
In the meantime, we would like to draw attention to the multi-faceted work California Waterfowl has been doing for years to improve conditions that could lead to healthier mallard populations:
- Our regional biologists develop breeding habitat on both public and private lands.
- Our advocacy team fights for funding to improve breeding habitat, including the recently expanded Presley Program and a very important bill to fund the Nesting Bird Habitat Incentive Program.
- Our waterfowl program staff:
—Created this handy guide to improving breeding habitat.
—Bands ducks for research that supports science-based regulations.
- Our Egg Salvage Program works with wildlife-friendly farmers to salvage duck nests from their fields prior to normal farming operations that might destroy nests.
- Our new Delayed Wheat Harvest Incentive Program provides incentives for farmers to delay wheat harvest long enough to let ducklings hatch naturally and leave the field with their mothers.
- We are fighting to restore a reliable water supply to the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, which provides critical breeding and molting habitat for California mallards.
You can read more about these efforts at calwaterfowl.org/mallard.
Finally, the board would like to thank all California hunters who took the time to contact us about our decision, and about the process that produced it. California Waterfowl’s ability to effect meaningful changes stems from precisely this kind of engagement. It is because of an active community of waterfowlers that CWA is in a position to fight for its vision of a California with thriving waterfowl populations, vibrant wetland ecosystems and respected hunting communities. Thank you.