Adaptive Harvest Management

Harvest Strategies for Ducks

In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which is ultimately responsible for migratory bird management, adopted a process called Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) for regulating duck harvest in the United States. The intent of the FWS was: 1. to apply the best science available to the selection of duck hunting regulations; 2. reduce the contentious nature that had been present in some years; 3. acknowledge that there is uncertainty associated with establishing regulations and incorporate it into the system; and 4. to maximize what can be learned from each annual cycle of setting regulations. AHM relies on an iterative cycle of monitoring, assessment and decision making to help clarify relationships among hunting regulations, harvest and duck populations.

The Central Flyway Council (CFC) has strongly supported the AHM process since it was first adopted while at the same time being an active participant in the development of related computer models and the regulatory alternatives those models include. They recognize that AHM has partially met its objectives and they believe the opportunity to learn is great. AHM should allow the CFC to better achieve the goal specified in many of its management plans: Maximum recreational opportunity consistent with the welfare of the population, international treaties, habitat constraints and the interests of all Central Flyway provinces and states.

AHM has not been tested in an environment of declining or low mallard populations and that test is surely to come. This will not be so much a biological test as one of resolve by administrators and others (Technical Committee and Council members, FWS personnel and others) to stick with a system for the selection of duck hunting regulations that is different than the one used in the past. The alternative to AHM is a return to days of setting duck hunting regulations in a more contentious atmosphere and one driven less on science than on opinion. It is the view of the CFC that this is not a good alternative and support for AHM remains high.