1804 Tasmania’s first game law

The first European settlement in Van Diemen’s Land was in 1803. Immediately, the new arrivals began to shoot native birds and animals to supplement their food supply.  After Lt Governor Collins established Hobart Town on its current site in 1804 he made the first game law prohibiting the shoocollting of black swans during the breeding season.

The first settlement in Tasmania (then Van Diemen’s Land) was at Risdon Cove on the Derwent River, in 1803. The party of 49, led by Lieutenant John Bowen, included members of the New South Wales Corps, government officials, free settlers and convicts. However, when the colony’s first governor, Lieutenant Governor David Collins arrived in 1804 he relocated the main settlement to Sullivan’s Cove, the current site of Hobart.

The settlement relied on supplies that came by ship, supplemented by local fish, oysters and game. In 1804, salt beef could be had for 9 pence per pound, salt pork for a shilling, kangaroo for 8 pence and flour for a shilling. By October 1805, meat was 3/6d per pound and “coarse meal” was 9 shillings.

The intent of the first game law was practical rather than humane. It was to ensure the continuation of the species, as Collins was afraid that such a valuable source of food as the swans would be exterminated.

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