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Fishermen: Shed the Lead
On November 4, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected a petition asking to stop the manufacture and use of lead based fishing gear. In August, the agency did the same with lead in ammunition for hunting, saying they did not have the legal regulatory authority. Sports groups applauded the decisions, arguing that non-lead ammo and fishing tackle would be too expensive and would have been a heavy financial burden for hunters and anglers. But what about those of us who hunt and fish and also actually care about environmental hazards?
Its time to shed the lead.
Lead is poisonous. It harms animals as well as people, and its especially dangerous to children (it may well be the cause of many learning and behavioural problems). Lead is everywhere. Its in the air, in the ground, in the water and even in our food. Bottom line, there is no safe threshold for lead exposure, which means even the smallest amount can cause you harm.
Who hasn't caught a snag and lost a sinker? Fishermen lose more tackle than they care to admit. But that stuff doesn't just disappear. It might be out of sight out of mind for us, but that little piece of lead looks a lot like a rock to a bird (eagles and loons mostly), who swallows it, then suffers from a host of problems like loss of balance, gasping, tremors, and impaired ability to fly. Not just birds are affected, though. Everything is: the fish, the water, the soil, the air.
When we shoot a deer, elk or anything else with leaded ammo, it explodes and breaks apart into tiny pieces and can spread throughout the meat. Research using X-Rays shows that many, undetectable, microscopic lead fragments can contaminate meat as far as a foot and a half away from the bullet wound, causing a greater health risk to humans who eat lead-shot game than previously thought.
So why are we using it? It's cheap. And cost is the main reason why many outdoor sporting advocacy groups are against any lead bans. They say the non-lead alternatives can be up to 20 times more expensive, and that added cost is a penalty to sports people, preventing many from participating in the activities they love. It's a valid point. Less hunters and fishermen means less money in the economy for many local communities who rely on sports tourism. And it also means less funding for conservation and wildlife management.
So what's the answer? Voluntary action. Nobody likes to be told what to do, especially outdoor sports enthusiasts. Rugged individualism is our hallmark. But so is informed decision-making and stewardship for the land. Many states already have lead bans in place for fishing tackle and bullets, but if your state doesn't, and if you can afford it, seriously consider using a non-leaded alternative. As stated before, lead is a poison unsafe at any level, so the less of it out in the environment, the better.
You don't have to make the switch all at once. Buy one non-poisonous sinker or box of ammo such as tin, bismuth, steel, and tungsten-nickel alloy, then buy more when you can afford it. Slowly replace your equipment stock over time so the cost is not so noticeable. Gradually, as we all switch, manufacturers will develop cheaper means of production and the prices will go down. In the long run, though, it will be nothing compared to the cost of lead poisoning in terms of environmental damage as well as our own health care.
Hunters, fishermen, its time to take a leadership position on this and show the world what true conservation means. Its time to shed the lead.
sources: www.pca.state.mn.us, www.livestrong.com, www.salem-news.com, www.keepamericafishing.org, www.theoutdoorwire.com, wikipedia
2010 Captain Kujo All rights reserved.