Lead Ban On Loon Lakes Back Before FWC

Ban lead outright or keep the status quo.

In August, a group of Washington fishermen, biologists and bird conservationists made those two their top choices from a list of four options for how to regulate 13 lakes across the state where loons live and breed.

And now that testimony from WDFW’s Lead Fishing Tackle/Common Loon Advisory Group as well as public citizens will be taken at the Oct. 1-2 Fish & Wildlife Commission meeting in Olympia.

The agency is looking into the issue because of concerns that the state’s small population of loons can mistakenly ingest small lead weights and fishing gear that gets snagged up or lost at lakes. Between 1999 and 2010, 33 percent of 21 loon deaths in Washington were traced to possible or confirmed lead toxicosis, according to a WDFW document.

It’s an issue that’s also being looked into across the northern tier of the United States, including in Michigan where “anglers and bait shop owners are resisting a push to ban lead in fishing tackle, arguing it would harm the state’s $7 billion industry at a time it is already suffering because of the recession,” reported the Associated Press this past weekend.

Already there are bans on small sinker sales in almost all the New England states, as well as prohibitions on their use in New Hampshire and Vermont, AP says.

Then there’s the petition before the Environmental Protection Agency to ban lead fishing gear. The Federal agency closed comment period on that last week and is mulling whether to move forward or not; it dismissed a related petition to do away with lead bullets.

Back in the other Washington, a 29-page PDF that contains the loon advisory group’s concerns can be found on the Fish & Wildlife Commission’s Web site.

For loon advocates, a total ban gives “the highest degree of protection to loon breeding population,” “maximizes the probability that mortality from lead fishing gear will not continue as a critical factor in loon productivity,” “enhances the general social initiative to reduce lead in the environment” and would be easy to enforce.

For fishermen — the group included Marc Marcantonio, the well-known Western Washington bass angler, Mark Masterson of Yakima Bait and Gary Stiles of Northwest Bass — preserving the status quo is “consistent with data presented that indicates loon productivity is above replacement (but certainly not robust) on the 13 lakes in question,” “least disruptive for enforcement,” “does not increase the complexity of regulations,” and “does not impose an additional financial and regulatory burden on the fishing public.”

Banning lead came up in 2009 as WDFW looked at new rules for the 2010-12 fishing seasons. That proposal would have banned lead weights of 1/2 ounce or less as well as lead jigs less than 11/2 inches long at the 13 lakes.

LAKES WHERE LEAD RESTRICTIONS ARE BEING CONSIDERED INCLUDE HANCOCK AND CALLIGAN IN KING COUNTY; HOZOMEEN IN WHATCOM COUNTY; LOST, BONAPARTE AND BLUE IN OKANOGAN COUNTY; FERRY, LONG AND SWAN IN FERRY COUNTY; PIERRE IN STEVENS COUNTY; AND YOCUM, SOUTH SKOOKUM AND MEADOW IN PEND OREILLE COUNTY. (WDFW)

Written comments are being taken through Nov. 19. Send them to WDFW Rules Coordinator Lori Preuss at Lori.Preuss@dfw.wa.gov or 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA, 98501.

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