Loons

2013 SB 89 was signed into law by the Governor on 07/02/2013 and becomes effective on 06/01/2016.

Discussion points:

    • SB 89, relative to the definition of lead fishing sinkers and jigs and the penalties for prohibited sales of lead fishing sinkers and jigs, would protect New Hampshire’s loons from toxic lead (Pb) fishing sinkers and jigs (hooks with a lead weight molded around them) weighing one ounce or less.
    • Lead poisoning caused by ingestion of this fishing tackle is by far the largest known cause of NH adult loon mortality.
    • Loons (a state-listed threatened species) do not breed until their sixth or seventh year of life on average, and then only produce an average of one chick per pair every two years. Therefore, survival of adult loons is the most important factor in preserving the viability of NH’s loon population.
    • Between 1989 and 2011, New Hampshire lost at least 124 adult loons to ingested lead sinkers and jigs. In our district, Iona Lake in Albany, Loon Lake in Freedom, Pearl Lake in Lisbon, and Lake Chocorua are among the sites where these loon deaths have occurred.
    • While current law bans the sale and freshwater use of lead sinkers weighing one ounce or less, it only bans lead jigs on the basis of hook length (those measuring one inch or less are prohibited). This protection for loons is inadequate, as 52% of the lead objects recovered from deceased NH adult loons have been larger (currently legal) lead jigs. By using the same standard to define prohibited lead jigs (those weighing one ounce or less) and lead sinkers, SB 89 will remedy this deficiency while giving the law clarity and consistency.
    • As amended, SB 89 includes a three year phase-in period and other provisions to make its impact upon anglers and retailers minimal. A wide variety of alternatives to lead tackle already exist at a price comparable to lead (sometimes less). Furthermore, the bill is unlikely to impact fishing revenues. After Massachusetts enacted restrictions on lead tackle similar to those in SB 89 last year, the Commonwealth saw an increase in fishing license sales and bass tournaments.
    • In contrast to SB 89, the status quo of inadequate current law unfairly places the environmental costs of lead tackle upon parties other than those who make and use it for recreation. It is only because of intensive management supported by extensive volunteer contributions that our loon population has been maintained. This work—done with private resources—continues to be largely offset by loon deaths due to lead fishing tackle. Just thirty-eight pieces of this tackle completely erased six full seasons of volunteers’ work building and floating nesting rafts to improve loons’ reproductive success (276 rafts).
    • In the year after Massachusetts passed a law with similar weight restrictions, sales of fishing licenses increased by 10,000.

Loon Preservation Committee

Loon Conservation Study

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