FALMOUTH — Following last year’s state ban on the sale and use of certain lead-based fishing tools, Maine Audubon Society is beginning a two-year campaign to increase the use of lead-free tackle.
The law, passed in 2013, bans lead fishing sinkers one ounce or less, with phase-in of a ban on the sale of bare lead-headed jigs 2 1/2 inches long or shorter in September 2016, and the use of those jigs in September 2017.
Susan Gallo, a wildlife biologist who is running the lead-free campaign, said the reason Maine Audubon is acting now is because it’s the first fishing season since the ban passed last September.
“And we’ve been rolling this out all summer, but we just didn’t have all the pieces together,” Gallo said. “… But we’ve been rolling out ever since fishing season started. Really this was as soon as we could do it after the legislation passed.”
Gallo said that while the adult population of loons in Maine is doing well, the chick population hasn’t been doing well, so the overall population hasn’t been growing.
“We know we’re losing loons, a significant number of loons, to lead poisoning every summer, and it’s just something we can act on and make a change and do something about,” she said.
She said there are plenty of inexpensive alternatives on the market.
“There’s just no real reason to be continuing to use lead given the alternatives and where they are on the market today, and we know it will make a difference for the survival of adult loons in Maine,” she said.
Gallo said immediate goal is education rather than enforcement, at least for the first few years.
“Eventually there will be law enforcement around this issue, especially for the sale part of it, that’s an easier thing to enforce,” Gallo said. “People aren’t really going to have a choice. But ideally most people make the switch on their own.”
She said it will become easier since stores will stop carrying certain lead sinkers as of September.
She said that in 2002 a similar ban was issued. That one, however, only banned the sale of smaller lead sinkers and not the use, she said, so fishermen were more reluctant to change.
“Anglers know these things are more available, that prices have gone down and availability has gone up,” Gallo said.
As part of the campaign, Audubon will offer lead exchange kits for organizations and individuals. Audubon partnered on the campaign with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine BASS Nation, Maine Lakes Society and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.