Unless public outcry forces a reversal by the California Department of Toxic Substances (CDTS), the state is moving ahead with regulations that could ban fishing gear that contains lead, zinc, and copper. This follows quickly after the recent announcement that lead ammunition will not be allowed on state property and for all bighorn sheep hunting.
“It appears that politics, rather than science, was the basis for CDTS’s decision. While there are many sources of pollution that pose a serious threat to California’s ocean and streams, anglers are not among them,” said David Dickerson, president of the California Sportfishing League (CSL), which is spearheading opposition to the potential ban.
An environmental attorney and former CDTS director added that sellers and retailers of fishing tackle likely will be subjected to costly and onerous regulations, as well as potential fines.
“The result could be a wide range of enforcement options requiring restrictions or bans on sale, product reformulation, additional environmental impact studies, development of disposal programs, or funding for fundamental research and development,” said Maureen Gorsen. “The bottom line is that the cost of manufacturing fishing gear will increase significantly and these costs will be passed on to consumers.”
CDTS’s intentions were revealed in its draft of a Priority Product Work Plan for the Green Chemistry Initiative, which identifies seven product types, including fishing gear, for regulation and/or ban. Legislation authorizing the initiative was passed in 2008, but implementation was delayed for more than five years because of complexity and the potential for massive costs to small businesses, according to John Kabateck, California executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business.
“Green Chemistry is yet another example of Sacramento pursuing its agenda of environmental extremism without any concern for costs to consumers or California’s economic future,” he wrote in the Sacramento Business Journal in 2013.
“The department has issued a broad proposal that will enable it to regulate the manufacturing and distribution of any product it chooses that could impose unworkable burdens on tens of thousands of small businesses in the state.”
And CDTS is doing so with fishing tackle even though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2010 that lead gear does not pose an unreasonable risk to wildlife. Also, a recently passed budget bill contains a provision to prohibit the use of federal dollars to ban lead fishing tackle.
In public hearings, the department admitted that it has no scientific studies to show that lead poses an environmental problem in California, added Dickerson. “State regulators failed to comply with state law that requires them to conduct an independent analysis before including any product in this regulatory process,” he said.
The CSL president predicted that additional regulations will encourage businesses to flee California to more business friendly states. “Furthermore, when fishing is no longer an accessible and affordable source of recreation for millions of anglers, it will have a substantial impact on California’s economy and jobs.”
A recent CSL study revealed that fishing license sales have dropped more than 55 percent since 1980, with the state ranking last nationally in fishing participation by percentage of its population.
“The high cost of fishing licenses and unwarranted limits on fishing have contributed to a significant decline in participation,” Dickerson said. “Increasing the cost of gear and potential bans will only accelerate the decline, and threaten California jobs that are dependent on outdoor recreation and tourism.”
In addition to CSL, others lobbying for delisting of fishing gear include the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Travel Association, the National Federation of Independent Business, the California Parks Hospitality Association, the California Association for Recreational Fishing, the American Sportfishing Association, and Coastside Fishing Club.
Anglers who want to voice their opposition to a lead ban can sign at petition on CSL’s website.
(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)