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Unnecessary Bans Of Lead Fishing-Tackle In Massachusettsby MattShutta - MattShutta@Gmail.comMassachusetts Lead Bans.

February 15, 2012

On January 1, 2012 a law went into effect that banned "the use of any lead fishing sinkers and lead jigs weighing less than 1 ounce... in all inland waters (fresh water) of the Commonwealth". The following paragraphs are arguments against the decision made by the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) regarding the use of lead in fishing tackle. The DFW board members (currently 7 people) have voted amongst themselves and successfully enacted the current regulations that, as you will read, I strongly oppose for multiple reasons. I encourage anyone who agrees to voice their opinion to Massachusetts government and DFW officials, as well as pass this information along to any friends and family for additional support. We need as many people as possible to help if we want to see a change in the laws. To voice your opinion to government and DFW officials, please see the list of contacts at the end of this article.

The restrictions the DFW put on lead use within inland waters of <acronym title="Massachusetts">MA</acronym> are unreasonable and need to be changed. I believe their decisions were made too hastily, with disregard for anglers (both recreational and competitive), the economy, and the future of the sport. The ban of all lead jigs, weights, and sinkers less than 1 ounce has the potential for a great deal of damage in other areas on the commonwealth. The livelihood of tackle shop owners is put in jeopardy, state tax money will be lost, and the increased expense of alternative materials can shy many people away from the sport, further hurting the financial support of the state's budget for research, wildlife conservation, etc. Researchers have determined that a number of Common Loons (Gavia Immer) across the New England region have died from lead toxosis (poisoning) over the course of 13 years. A high percentage of those deaths were due to loons ingesting lead fishing equipment that had been lost in the water; this can be given credit as the sole reason the DFW has enacted the restrictions on lead fishing equipment. Enacting these strict regulations is an overreaction to a small problem. Research has led me to lead toxosis fatality figures much less than what is being reported by the DFW, as well as data that suggest a great percentage of loons could still be protected if the DFW adjusted their regulations to only ban a smaller scope of lead tackle. I believe conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitat is important, but the DFW has gone too far to help such a small number of loons. There are changes that can and should be made, so fishermen, bird watchers, tackle store owners, or any person in the commonwealth could be satisfied; a "middle of the road" balanced approach should be taken.

The ban on lead use and the increased cost of substitute materials can adversely affect the state financially. It has been shown that even a $1 increase in the cost of a fishing license can decrease the amount of fishing participation by thousands. A single ¼ oz lead "bullet weight" costs approx. $0.28 while the same weight made from brass costs approx. $0.82, and tungsten costs approx. $2.00! A single high quality ½ oz. lead football jig costs approx. $3.00, its tungsten counterparts sell for over $5.50! It is not hard to see that the added cost of using these alternatives will more than likely drop fishing participation at an even greater rate than an increase in license cost. In 2006, Massachusetts did $271,798,345 in retail sales of freshwater fishing equipment, leading to $32,309,421 in state and local taxes. Increasing costs of equipment, added to an already struggling economy only further puts into jeopardy the 3,858 jobs and the $141,303,678 in salaries wages and business owner's income the Massachusetts freshwater fishing industry provides.

Many supporters of the DFW's decision to ban lead (as well as the DFW itself) state that there are many "ecologically safe alternatives" that are "readily available at cost-comparable prices, in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and weights to meet every type of fishing need." That statement is simply not true. There are many types of fishing lures that do not have an alternative material substitution available, and the very few that do are either significantly more expensive (as discussed above), or are simply not effective due to the physical size of the material needed to achieve an appropriate weight. Tackle such as flipping jigs, wacky rigs, football jigs, weighted swim-bait hooks, and more, do not have non-lead versions readily available or available at all. Part of the reason is that alternative materials such as tungsten are extremely tough to work with (tungsten has a melting point of ˜3422°C versus ˜327°C for lead) and makes it very expensive to turn into fishing lures. Another contributing factor to the rarity of these lead-alternative lures is that majority of states across the country do not have a lead ban in effect, and tackle companies will not cater their production to a handful of states that ban the material. Also, alternative materials such as steel are not as dense as lead, causing lures to be larger, and in many cases ineffective because of their size. (Lead density: approx 11.34 grams per cubic centimeter. Mild steel density: approx. 7.85 grams per cubic centimeter).

Currently the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG) website states that "over the past 10 years… ingestion of lead sinkers (including split shot) accounted for approximately 70% of loon deaths". I can find no published counts of loon deaths due to lead ingestion completed after the year 2000 (twelve years ago), and cannot locate any data supporting the figures they specified. The most recent data I find shows that between 1987 and 2000 a total of 118 loon carcasses gathered from across Massachusetts (averaging approx. 9 per year) had a complete gross necropsy performed to determine cause of death. That particular study did not specify how many of those loons from Massachusetts were proven to have died from lead ingestion, but gave numbers of lead toxosis fatalities based on the entire range surveyed (New England, approx 63,473 square miles). The total number of carcasses collected throughout New England was 522. Of those 522, an unspecified number of "sick or injured" loons were euthanized in the wild and included in that number. The published number of loons whose death was attributed to lead ingestion (118, 23%) combined both confirmed (68, 13% total) and suspected (50, 10% total) cases of lead toxosis. We now begin to see how the information released to the public may be presented to us in a misleading fashion, leading readers to believe a greater number of loons are at risk. Within that study, the length of approx. 80% of recovered lead objects were less than 19mm (.75") along their longest axis, while approx. 44% had lengths of less than 10mm (.39"). The weight of approx. 94% of recovered lead objects was less than 10 grams (.35 ounces), while the mean weight was 3.18 grams (.11 ounces). Clearly we can see that a great deal of the problem is due to small lead weights being ingested. Without hearing from those board members personally I can only infer why they chose the less than 1 oz. weight restriction. After reviewing the numbers it seems completely absurd to me that the DFW would set the limiting factor at 1 ounce (28.34 grams). The DFW website clearly states: "The board assures professional responsibility for the wildlife resource by … adopting policies and regulations that are based on sound ecological science" These regulations do not appear to be based on "sound ecological science".

As previously mentioned, I do believe wildlife conservation is important, that is why I am not recommending that the commonwealth completely revoke the ban that went into effect Jan 1, 2012; Rather, I am proposing changes be made to the weight restriction, and a minimum length restriction be created. I believe there is a more reasonable solution that will both significantly reduce the number of loon deaths due to lead toxosis, and provide anglers the ability to use a number of fishing tackle items that currently would be deemed illegal. I propose that all legal fishing sinkers, jigs, and split shots be no less than 3/8 ounce, or no shorter than ¾" in length. A legal piece of lead fishing tackle would meet one or both criteria. Example: a lead jig weighing ¼ ounce shall be deemed legal if its lead section is ¾" in length or longer along its longest axis. These regulations would prevent approx 87% of the sizes/weights of lead objects shown to cause loon fatalities from entering the water. If we combine that with the number of loons that died from "confirmed lead toxosis" and "suspected lead toxosis" (68 and 50 respectively), we can estimate that nearly 100 of the 118 loons would not have died from lead toxosis. Enacting these regulations would also open a broad range of useful tackle to anglers that is currently banned, while still being more than reasonably safe for loons if, by chance, it ends up on the bottom of a lake/pond. I believe these changes are extremely fair to anglers, loon conservationists, and any other party effected. Balance is very important in society as well as in nature; we can add a greater balance by replacing the current restrictions, with the suggested restrictions above.

Whether or not you agree with my arguments and recommended changes to the lead use restrictions, I gladly offer you my e-mail address for questions, comments, and further discussion on the topic.

There is sample text you may copy by clicking HERE if you wish to send an e-mail or a letter.

Suggested list of contacts to voice your disapproval of the lead ban to:

(Massachusetts Fisheries & Wildlife Board Members)

George L. Darey, Chairman

John Creedon, Vice Chairman

Michael P. Roche, Secretary

Bonita (Bonnie) Booth

Joseph S. Larson, Ph.D.

Brandi L. Van Roo, Ph.D.

Frederic Winthrop

Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

1 Rabbit Hill Rd,

Westborough <acronym title="Massachusetts">MA</acronym>, 01581

Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (P) 508-389-6300 (F) 508-389-7890

Director Wayne F. MacCallum

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife 251

Causeway Street Suite 400

Boston, <acronym title="Massachusetts">MA</acronym>. 02114

(P) 617-626-1590 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 617-626-1590 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Commissioner Mary B. Griffin

Department of Fish and Game

251 Causeway Street. Suite 400

Boston, <acronym title="Massachusetts">MA</acronym>. 02114

(P) 617-626-1500 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 617-626-1500 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr.

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900

Boston, <acronym title="Massachusetts">MA</acronym> 02114

(P) 617-626-1000 (F) 617-626-1181

Commissioner Edward M. Lambert Jr.

Department of Conservation and Recreation

251 Causeway Street

Boston, <acronym title="Massachusetts">MA</acronym> 02114 (P) 617-626-1250 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 617-626-1250 end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Governor Deval Patrick (and/or) Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray

Massachusetts State House

Office of the Governor

Room 280 Boston, <acronym title="Massachusetts">MA</acronym> 02133 (P) 617-725-4005 (F) 617-727-9725


Western Massachusetts Office of the Governor

State Office Building 436 Dwight Street, Suite 300 Springfield <acronym title="Massachusetts">MA</acronym>, 01103

Bob Greco - Commissioner's Office bob.greco@state.<acronym title="Massachusetts">ma</acronym>.us Russ Cohen - Division of Ecological Restoration russ.cohen@state.<acronym title="Massachusetts">ma</acronym>.usDivision of Fisheries and Wildlife Mass.Wildlife@stat.<acronym title="Massachusetts">ma</acronym>.us


American Sportfishing Association. Copyright 2010.

Economic Impact of Freshwater Fishing by State in 2006.

Factors Driving State Fishing License Sales and Revenues.

Government Affairs; Lead in Fishing Tackle.

Kneeland,M. R., A. Major, R. Miconi, M.A. Pokras, and R.H. Poppenga. Lead Objects Ingested by Common Loons in New England. 2009.

Loons, Lead Sinkers & Jigs. January 1, 2012.

Major, A., R. Miconi, M.A. Pokras, R.H. Poppenga, I.F. Sidor, and K.M. Taylor. "Mortality of Common Loons in New England, 1987 to 2000." Journal of Wildlife Disease. 2003. 39(2):306-315.

Massachusetts Fisheries & Wildlife Board.

The Practical Biological Impacts of Banning Lead Sinkers for Fishing. December 4, 2002.

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