Loon groups push for bill to ban lead fishing jigs in NH
MOULTONBOROUGH - The Loon Preservation Committee and the New Hampshire Lakes Association are pushing hard for passage of a bill that would ban the use of lead sinkers and fishing jigs, which they say threaten the lives of loons.
The groups held a press conference in Concord Tuesday to call for passage in the House of Senate Bill 89. The bill recently passed the Senate by a unanimous vote, and it will come before the House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee in the coming weeks.
The bill's prime sponsor, Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith, said the bill "is great news for New Hampshire loons and all who enjoy them on our lakes.
"I am pleased to be the prime sponsor of this important legislation that will ensure the continued viability of our small loon population, one of our state's true treasures," she said.
Harry Vogel, the loon committee's executive director, said loons do not breed until their sixth or seventh year of life on average, and a loon pair produces an average of one surviving chick every two years in New Hampshire.
"In any population of animals with those life history characteristics, the key to maintaining a viable population is to keep adults alive, so that they have many opportunities to reproduce over their lifetimes."
The Loon Preservation Committee said 11 loons died in 2010 after ingesting lead tackle. The committee and its partners have conducted a comprehensive study of loon mortality in New Hampshire, which found that lead fishing sinkers and jigs caused nearly half of the adult loon mortality between 1989 and 2011.
The study also showed that the majority of lead-related loon deaths are from lead jigs, which are most commonly used by bass anglers, the loon committee said.
Senate Bill 89 would expand the current ban on lead sinkers to include jigs by expanding the ban to include tackle sizes up to one ounce.
Opponents of the legislation, including several organized state and national bass fishing groups, say the bill is virtually identical to a bill that was tabled by legislators in 2012 and never became law.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission is not supporting this bill, and did not support last year's bill.
Dick Smith of the New Hampshire Bass Federation said the bill goes too far, and says he has studies from other states that show that loons are mostly dying from ingesting small amounts of lead, most likely lead sinkers, not larger lead fishing jigs.
"The science is on our side," he said. "The lead objects they are eating are mostly sinkers and split-shot. Study after study proves that small lead objects are causing the problem.
"There is no dispute that if a loon ingests a small amount of lead it is likely to die, but this bill goes over the top, while the rest of us bass fishermen are trying to fish."