While many applaud the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to open more national refuges to hunting and fishing, some are appalled at the proposed regulations that may come with it.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed a restriction on lead fishing gear in National Wildlife Refugesand the sport fishing community is speaking out in opposition.
The new proposal, announced in June, has angered the sport fishing community. This week, the American Sportfishing Association, along with 234 co-signers, released a letter addressed to US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams. In this letter, they declared their strong opposition due to a lack of evidence.
“We urge the USFWS to follow the science and recognize that anglers should continue to be permitted to use traditional fishing gear as they have done so safely for generations,” the letter reads.
This isn’t the first time lead bans have been on the table, and it’s always been controversial. The problem arises because of the toxicity of lead. The use of lead in hunting has been directly linked to lead toxicity in several wildlife species following ingestion of the metal. Even small amounts can be fatal. Thus, the federal government has imposed bans in the past.
In 2017, former USFWS Director Dan Ashe instituted a ban on all lead ammunition and fishing tackle in national parks and sanctuaries. This happened in the last days of the Obama administration. Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke later reversed that decision on his first day in the Trump administration.
These new proposed rule changes have once again ruffled feathers.
Proposed Change to Lead Fishing Gear Rule
National Wildlife Refuges are areas of public land and water that the USFWS designates as essential for wildlife and habitat conservation. Opening more wildlife sanctuaries to hunting and fishing has two main objectives. It both provides greater opportunities for outdoor recreation and helps manage wildlife populations in these areas.
As opposition to lead-based projectiles in hunting grows, scrutiny has been felt in the outdoor world regarding all lead-based products. Lead toxicity has devastating consequences on wildlife when ingested.
Hunting ammunition is the biggest target in the main debate. There are a plethora of studies showing the adverse effects of lead shot, especially for birds that ingest it. Studies on the implications of lead fishing gear are far fewer. Lead is the preferred material for fishing sinkers. The material is cheap, plentiful, heavy and, unfortunately, toxic.
It appears the USFWS is conducting a preemptive strike to prevent potential damage to sensitive wildlife areas before it occurs.
From proposed rule change:
…Finally, the best available scientific data, analyzed as part of this regulatory proposal, indicates that lead fishing ammunition and tackle can have adverse effects on wildlife and human health, and that these effects are more acute for some species. Therefore, as the Service continues to evaluate the future of lead use in hunting and fishing on Service lands and waters, these regulations provide a measured approach by not adding to the use lead on lands of refuge. The Service will seek the advice of partners on methods to combat the use of lead and is committed to following a transparent process to do so.
The department agrees public comments on the proposal until August 8, 2022.
The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) sent its objection letter signed by 234 individuals and companies from the world of fishing. The opposition focuses on the lack of scientific data regarding the impacts of lead fishing tackle on the region.
“The proposed rule simply states that ‘ammunition and lead material may have adverse impacts on wildlife and human health,’ without supporting documentation of the impacts on wildlife and human health that have been identified in these sanctuaries to support wholesale bans on lead material.”
The letter calls for fishermen to be allowed to use traditional gear until there is verifiable evidence that lead fishing gear is causing negative impacts.
Signatories include companies such as Flambeau Outdoors, Havalon, Pure Fishing, Rapala, Salt Life, St. Croix Rod, and more.
You can submit your comment to the US Fish & Wildlife Service here.