Animal advocates are crying foul at Victoria's decision to push ahead with this year's duck shooting season despite declining bird numbers and breeding rates.
The Victorian government's Game Management Authority announced on Saturday the 2021 season would start on May 26.
It will run for 20 days, down from 37 during last year's lockdown-impacted season, with a daily bag limit of two birds.
Shooting of grey teal and chestnut teal ducks is banned in some areas, while the blue-winged shoveler cannot be hunted at all this season.
Advocates have been calling for the season to be abandoned altogether after an annual aerial survey of wetland birds across eastern Australia found numbers declined to 162,824 in 2020, the 6th lowest figure in 38 years.
Breeding abundance and species richness also decreased "considerably" from 2019, the survey noted, with wetlands impacted by parts of Queensland, NSW, SA and Victoria remaining in drought.
RSPCA Victoria chief executive Liz Walker said there were evidence-based reasons to cancel the season, including falling waterbird populations and cruelty concerns.
"We are disappointed that our recommendation to cancel the 2021 duck hunting season was not heeded," Dr Walker said.
"Another season will cause unnecessary injury, pain, suffering and death for hundreds of thousands of birds and contribute to the ongoing decline of our waterbird population."
Victoria's Animal Justice MP Andy Meddick similarly slammed the state government, labelling the decision "shameful".
"They have once again acted in the interest of shooters and against science, public sentiment and common sense," the upper house crossbencher said.
"There is no water and no birds but Daniel Andrews continues to give in to a handful of shooters."
Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh also criticised the premier, but his concerns were over the economic impacts of reducing the season and bag limits after a "wet year".
"It's the second year in a row that hunters have lost their season after Daniel Andrews' COVID shutdowns in 2020," the deputy opposition leader said.
"The hunting community had looked forward to a full 12-week season - as legislated."
Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are the only states and territories where duck hunting is not banned.