DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife to propose 2016/17 waterfowl season dates at Feb. 23 Advisory Council meeting

New sea duck regulations, migratory game bird seasons will also be discussed

DOVER – The Advisory Council on Wildlife and Freshwater Fish will address dates proposed by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife for the 2016/17 waterfowl and migratory game bird seasons at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23 in the auditorium at the Richardson & Robbins Building, 89 Kings Highway, Dover.

Changes to sea duck hunting regulations that are being implemented by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) also will be discussed at the council meeting, and the Division of Fish & Wildlife invites sea duck hunters to attend to learn about these changes and provide input on new season dates for Delaware.

Sea ducks – scoters, eiders and long-tailed ducks – are commonly found in the coastal waters and bays of Delaware, primarily during fall and winter, providing consistent hunting opportunities. For decades, states within the Atlantic Flyway have held a special 107-day season for sea ducks with a separate sea duck bag limit within a designated special sea duck area. Delaware’s special sea duck area begins at and extends beyond 800 yards from shore between Port Mahon/Elbow Cross Navigation Light and the Delaware-Maryland line.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, waterfowl biologists in the Atlantic Flyway, and around North America in general, have become concerned about the status and harvest pressure on sea ducks. Sea ducks have a low reproductive rate, smaller clutch sizes, mature sexually at a later age and have populations that are more difficult to monitor compared to other waterfowl species. These factors, combined with technological advances for hunting sea ducks, caused biologists within the flyway to begin examining sea duck harvest sustainability. In 2015, USFWS completed a preliminary analysis for scoters, eiders and long-tailed ducks, and the results suggested that the Atlantic Flyway is exceeding the allowable harvest for all sea duck species.

As a result, the Atlantic Flyway, including Delaware, must begin implementing changes to reduce sea duck harvest by 25 percent beginning with the 2016/17 season. The total daily limit of sea ducks in the special sea duck area is being reduced from seven to five, and bag limits for scoters, eiders and long-tailed ducks are being reduced to no more than four of any kind statewide. In addition, the hunting season for sea ducks within the special sea duck area is being reduced from 107 days to 60 days.

“Now that we know more about sea duck populations, Delaware and our Atlantic Flyway neighbors fully support these regulation changes and have voted in favor of implementing them,” said Wildlife Administrator Rob Hossler, Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife. “However, the Division would like to involve our hunters in the process by hearing what they believe would be the best 60-day timeframe for holding a shortened sea duck season.”

For more information, please contact the Wildlife Section at 302-739-9912.

Media Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 46, No. 36