Efforts to Ban Lead in Fishing Tackle

13969613_xxl-300x180Over the past decade, efforts to eliminate the sale and use of lead fishing tackle, including sinkers, jigs and more have increased. In fall 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected a petition to ban lead in all fishing tackle. In 2011, the petitioners filed a lawsuit against the EPA in an attempt to force the ban and have since filed a new similar petition, which was also dismissed. Sweeping regulation of lead fishing tackle would have a significant negative impact on recreational anglers and fisheries resources, but a negligible impact on conserving waterfowl populations, the main reason cited by supporters of such bans.

A provision to prohibit federal funds from being used to regulate lead fishing tackle and ammunition under the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) was included in the 2014 federal spending bill. The temporary legislative fix provided in the federal spending bill supports and reinforces the EPA’s previous decisions and will aid ASA in its efforts toward a permanent solution. While the EPA has consistently rejected these petitions, a permanent fix is needed to prevent an unnecessary ban from being approved.

The Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Sports Protection Act (S. 225), introduced on January 21, 2015, may be the long-term fix that is necessary. This legislation will ensure that any future regulations on fishing tackle are established based on scientific data, not unjustified petitions.

Background

On August 23, 2010, the EPA was petitioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and four other organizations to ban all lead in fishing tackle and ammunition under the TSCA. This included sinkers, jigs, weighted fly line, and components that contain lead such as brass and ballast in a wide variety of lures, including spinners, stick baits and more. Four days later, the EPA denied the petition for ammunition because it is exempted under the TSCA.

On November 4, 2010, the EPA rejected the petition to ban lead in all fishing tackle. Opposition from anglers was strong; over 43,000 anglers sent comments requesting dismissal of the petition to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson through KeepAmericaFishing.

Despite the EPA’s findings that a national ban is scientifically unjustified and outside the agency’s jurisdiction; the petitioners are currently challenging this decision in court. On November 16, 2011, the petitioners submitted a new similar petition. This most recent petition was also rejected by the agency.

The recent increase in anti-fishing efforts to ban lead fishing tackle demonstrates the need to legislatively protect one of our nation’s greatest pastimes from unwarranted and burdensome regulation. Therefore, passage of TSCA on December 13, 2014 in the omnibus spending bill was a short-term victory for the sportsmen community. The bill states that no funds may be used to regulate lead content of fishing tackle for 12 months.

The Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act

Despite the EPA’s findings that a national ban is scientifically unjustified and outside the agency’s jurisdiction; the petitioners continually challenge this decision in court and continue to submit new and similar petitions, demonstrating the need to legislatively protect one of our nation’s greatest pastimes from overregulation.

On January 21, 2015, the Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act (S. 225) was introduced by Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Similar legislation was introduced in two previous congresses, the most recent being bipartisan legislation – H.R. 322 – introduced on January 18, 2013, by Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL), which had 94 co-sponsors. Much like last session’s version of the bill, S. 225 will prevent a federal ban on lead in recreational fishing tackle by clarifying the TSCA exemption for ammunition and establishing a similar exemption for fishing tackle. The Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act will put an end to attempts to over regulate the recreational fishing and hunting industries and protect the rights of anglers and hunters who choose to sustainably enjoy their sports.

The reasons to support such legislation are:

  • The data does not support a federal ban on lead sinkers used for fishing.
  • A federal ban of the use of lead in fishing tackle will have a significant negative impact on recreational anglers and fisheries resources, but a negligible impact on waterfowl populations. Depending on the alternative metal and current prevailing raw material costs, non-lead fishing tackle products can cost from ten to twenty times more than lead products.
  • America’s 60 million anglers generate over $47 billion in retail sales with a $115 billion impact on the nation’s economy, creating employment for almost one million people.

A less restrictive ban was proposed in 1992, which the EPA later abandoned after finding that lead had no significant impact on waterbird populations; that the economic impact would be significant; and that the proposed rule was socially unacceptable.

No Impact on Loons and Waterbird Populations

Substantial threats such as habitat loss, predation, disease and environmental toxins, all have a much more significant impact on waterbird populations than ingestion of lead fishing tackle.

Lead is used in nearly all types of fishing. Products made of different metals have significant cost and/or performance issues; some alternatives may even be twenty times more expensive. Before further laws or policies are enacted to restrict the use lead sinkers on our nation’s waters, requiring anglers to make costly changes, sufficient data must exist to demonstrate that lost lead sinkers are an actual threat to the sustainability of loons or other wildlife populations. A national ban on the use of lead in fishing tackle will have a significant negative impact on recreational anglers and fisheries resources, but a negligible impact on the loon and waterbird populations that it seeks to protect.

Voluntary Angler Actions

America’s anglers are conservationists first and foremost, having paid nearly $6 billion since 1950 for fisheries conservation, and have a long history of making sacrifices for the betterment of the resources.

KeepAmericaFishing encourages anglers to use the sinker or jig of their choice and to take these voluntary steps to minimize the probability of losing fishing tackle into the water:

  • Use sufficiently strong fishing line and leaders when fishing with sinkers and jigs
  • Make sure to tie lures and jigs using strong knots
  • Tightly crimp split-shot weights using pliers
  • Discard all unusable fishing tackle, such as line, hooks and sinkers, in proper trash receptacles and never dump into the water or shore

For more information, read the American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA) scientific review on this issue.