OCEAN CITY – The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week denied a petition filed by a coalition of environmental groups seeking a ban on the use of lead in fishing tackle, a measure which, if approved, could have had serious impacts in Ocean City and other fishing communities.
In August, a coalition of environmental groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, filed a formal petition with the EPA seeking a ban on the use of lead in all fishing tackle and hunting ammunition, citing the adverse impact on birds, mammals and aquatic creatures that indirectly consume the potentially dangerous and toxic metal. In September, the EPA denied the section of the petition related to hunting ammunition, but left open the section regarding lead fishing tackle for further review.
According to the petition, an estimated 4,000 tons of lead fishing tackle is deposited in the ocean, bays, rivers and streams each year, resulting in the death or illness of an untold number of fish and other wildlife. Last week, the EPA denied the petition for a ban on the use of lead in fishing tackle, putting the issue to rest once and for all. The EPA informed the petitioners of the denial in a letter to the Conservation Advocacy and the American Bird Conservancy.
“After careful review, EPA has determined you have not demonstrated that the remaining action requested in your petition – a uniform national ban of lead for all use in fishing gear – is necessary to protect against a reasonable risk of injury to health or the environment,” the letter reads. “The petition also does not demonstrate that the action requested is the least burdensome alternative to adequately protect against the concerns. Accordingly, EPA is denying your request for a national ban on lead in all fishing gear.”
The EPA response indicates there are already an increasing number of limitations on the use of lead in fishing gear on some federal lands as well as federal outreach efforts. In addition, a number of states have established regulations that ban or restrict the use of lead tackle.
Recreational anglers across the region including right here in Ocean City breathed a collective sigh of relief when the news spread.
“We’re happy that the EPA has denied this lead ban petition,” said Recreational Fishing Alliance executive director Jim Donofrio this week. “There really was not justification for it to begin with. If this petition had moved forward, it could have had a devastating impact on our coastal fishing industry.”