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« Ultimate Sportfishing Experience in Florida Keys Could Be Yours | Main | Have Some Outdoor Media Been Compromised by Preservationist Agenda? »

Lead Fishing Tackle NOT a Factor in Eagle Deaths


Photo copyright Robert Montgomery

Just as those opposed to recreational fishing continue their assault via Catch Shares and Marine Protected Areas our oceans, they persist on the freshwater front by pressing for a ban on lead fishing tackle.

No research supports their charges that significant numbers of eagles, loons, and other birds die of lead poisoning from fishing weights. But they are not deterred by facts. Rather, they hope that their use of eagles and loons as “victims” will fuel an emotional landslide of support from the public and force government officials to bow to the pressure.

A ban on lead fishing tackle is not about protecting wildlife; it is a preservationist tactic to push us off the water.

But the emeritus director and founder of the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota just slapped preservationists upside the head with the truth in a letter to ProMED, a mail website maintained by the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

And it’s not just what Dr. Patrick T. Redig said. It’s what he didn’t say as well. In presenting the facts about eagle deaths from lead poisoning, he did NOT mention lead fishing tackle at a contributor.

In short, eagles are dying from ingesting deer and small game remains that are contaminated with spent lead ammunition. 

And, Redig adds, “As the annual poisoning event occurs from mid-November through March, a time when most waterfowl have left the shallow ponds where accumulated lead shot is available in the sediments, it is also quite certain that poisoning of eagles is not related to accumulated lead residues in waterfowl carcasses.”

That means that lead objects in the water, whether from anglers or waterfowl hunters, have nothing to do with eagle deaths.

Unintentional deaths of eagles are a tragedy, certainly, and the causes should be addressed --- now that we know the facts and can take actions that accurately address those facts.

Here’s an excerpt from his letter to ProMED:

“Our organization, The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, has been documenting and treating clinical cases of lead poisoning in eagles since the mid-1970s. Of the 120 or so eagles admitted every year for a wide variety of causes from 1974 to the present, some 25 to 30 were presented annually for acute lead poisoning; most of these eagles are beyond treatment and were euthanized.

“In addition, every eagle admitted, regardless of cause, is tested for lead, and over 90 percent have elevated lead residues in their blood during the hunting seasons. Clearly, eagles are exposed to a significant amount of lead.

“Extensive epidemiological monitoring and clinical evaluation (blood lead levels, radiographs, necropsies) of this phenomenon show that the source of lead is spent ammunition, especially fragments from high velocity rifle bullets and, to a lesser degree, shotgun slug fragments, buried in white-tailed deer residues, gutpiles, and
un-recovered carcasses.”

Meanwhile, environmental groups have presented a second petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a ban on lead fishing tackle, even though the agency rejected the first last year. Concurrently, some of these groups have filed suit, challenging dismissal of that first petition.

Go to Keep America Fishing to learn more about this issue, as well as the Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Sports Protection Act. We need passage of this legislation to ensure that regulations related to fishing tackle are based on fact, not fiction. Also, send a message, telling the EPA that you oppose the proposed ban and encouraging your  representatives in Congress to support the act.

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