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June 07. 2013 10:15AM

Lawmakers approve lead tackle ban

CONCORD – A bill banning lead sinkers and jigs weighing one ounce or less is head to Gov. Maggie Hassan's desk.

Thursday night the Senate agreed to changes the House made in Senate Bill 89. The House changed the effective date of the ban from June 1, 2015 to June 1, 2016.

Hassan's office said she is in the process of reviewing the bill.

Conservationists and environmentalists say lead sinkers and jigs are the leading cause of adult loon deaths in the state and the bill would finish the work that began more than a decade ago when the state was the first to prohibit small lead tackle.

Loons digest lead when they eat smaller fish that have swallowed sinkers and jigs. The current law prohibits jigs smaller than an inch, but supporters say the standard should be weight not length to better protect loons.

Loon Preservation Committee officials say adult loons survival is key to the continued viability of New Hampshire's loon population. Between 1989 and 2011, at least 124 adult New Hampshire loons have died from lead poisoning after ingesting lead fishing sinkers and jigs, they say.

“Ingestion of toxic lead fishing tackle is by far the largest known cause of NH adult loon death, but—with this legislation's passage—also the most easily preventable,” said Harry Vogel, Senior Biologist and LPC Executive Director. “Loons face varied and growing challenges, but this is a big step to ensure that New Hampshire residents and visitors will continue to hear the call of the loon on our lakes.”

The bill is similar to one last year the House sent to interim study hoping fishermen and conservationists with the help of Fish and Game Department officials could arrive at a compromise, but that did not happen as few meetings were held.

Bill opponents argued the bill would hurt small businesses in the state at a time when the New Hampshire's loon population is growing, not decreasing. And they said is will keep out-of-state fishing enthusiasts from coming to the state, while state anglers will have to buy new tackle.

But supporters said with the three-year window, there is ample time for retailers to sell their stock of lead sinkers and jigs and for fishermen and women to replace their tackle.

grayno@unionleader.com


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