Ban On Lead Fishing Tackle Being Pursued

OCEAN CITY – The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week denied a petition filed by environmental groups seeking a ban on the use of lead in hunting ammunition, but the debate of the use of the toxic substance in fishing tackle such as sinkers and lures continues.

Early last month, 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 hunting ammunition and fishing tackle, citing the adverse impact on birds, mammals and aquatic creatures that indirectly consume the potentially dangerous and toxic metal. Last week, the EPA denied the petition related to hunting ammunition, citing jurisdictional issues regarding firearms, but the federal agency kept open the section of the complaint related to lead fishing tackle.

In denying the petition to ban lead-based hunting ammunition, the EPA cited a section in the Toxic Substances Control Act that contains a specific exemption for lead-based bullets and shot. However, no such exemption exists for lead-based fishing tackle, including sinkers, lures and rigs of all shapes and sizes. The EPA is still considering the petition to ban lead-based fishing tackle with a public comment period remaining open until September 15.

The conservation groups that filed the petition pointed out lead ammo and shot is responsible for killing an estimated 10 million to 20 million birds each year, many of which are on the threatened or endangered species list. According to the petitioners, animals are poisoned when they scavenge on carcasses of animals shot with lead-based ammo and die a slow and painful death or suffer years of debilitating illness.

The petitioners also pointed to the tons of lead fishing tackle lost and deposited in the nation’s waterways and the similar effects on the fish and aquatic mammals. 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.

The Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association (MSSA) has been keeping a close eye on the petition and the EPA’s denial of the portion related to hunting, and is preparing a statement strongly opposing the pursuit of a ban on lead fishing tackle.

“Once again, the EPA and environmental groups see to not understand there are bigger threats to waterfowl and marine life than lead usage in fishing tackle,” said MSSA Executive Director Dave Smith. “Our local tackle shops, marinas, charter boat captains, watermen and thousands of others would be negatively impacted by such a ban. Our economy and our way of life in Maryland cannot afford a regulation such as this.”