The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) has issued a position statement on the use of lead in fishing tackle and backed the controversial substance as long as there is ‘no proof of a negative impact’ on wildlife or the environment.
Responding to various attempts at both federal and state level to restrict lead fishing tackle, it says: “These efforts are generally based on concerns over mortality of loons, which may ingest lost fishing weights from lakes or river bottoms. On occasion, justification for restrictions is based on concern that lead fishing tackle poses a risk to human and aquatic health through entering the water supply, which is entirely unfounded.
“Lead is only soluble in extremely acidic or basic waters, which would prohibit fish life and therefore not be areas in which anglers would go fishing.
It says: “Given the negative impacts on fishing opportunity and the industry, the ASA opposes restrictions on lead fishing tackle that are not based on science demonstrating population impacts to wildlife.
“Several states, mostly in the northeastern US have implemented restrictions on the sale and/or use of lead sinkers and jigs of a certain size. While ASA continues to question the merit of these restrictions given the overall health of the loon populations, nevertheless, if the supposition behind banning lead tackle is to protect loons, states have already implemented regulations to end that.
“Therefore, any additional lead tackle restrictions would need to be based on a different objective. Outside of loons, which are recognised as a species of least concern, there is no documented evidence of lead fishing tackle contributing to human or animal health risks.
“While the market exists for weights made of alternative metals – namely tin, steel and tungsten – these alternatives carry trade-offs of cost and/or performance. Different machinery, moulds and processes are required to manufacture lead and non-lead products.
“Transitioning the industry to non-lead alternatives is not as simple as replacing the material that is fed into the manufacturing process. Therefore, any restrictions that would limit the available use of lead tackle would require significant time and costs to the industry, leading to higher costs to consumers.
“These higher costs may deter fishing participation, harming fish-dependent businesses and communities across the country as well as reducing conservation funding provided by licence fees and excise taxes. Therefore, such restrictions must be based on a high standard of need.
“ASA supports factual education programmes that promote voluntary use of non-lead alternatives. We also back buy-back/trade-in programmes that allow anglers to voluntarily transition from lead. While education and incentive programmes may have merit, ASA maintains that as long as there is no proof of a negative impact on wildlife or the environment, anglers should be able to choose what type of tackle works best for their needs.”
ASA also highlighted the fact that lead has long been the most suitable method for fishing sinkers and jigs, which are integral to many types of fishing and are a significant part of the recreational fishing economy.
“Recreational fishing is enjoyed by 55 million anglers annually, supporting 800,000 jobs with a $128 billion economic impact. The recreational fishing community is among the nation’s leading conservationists, contributing $1.7 billion a year to aquatic resource conservation through excise taxes, licence fees and direct donations.”