Advocacy groups issue report claiming lead tackle ban harmful to economy

By: Parimal M. Rohit

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — A report issued last month by a national fishing advocacy group claims California’s proposed ban on lead fishing tackle would result in the loss of jobs, adversely impact the state’s fishery conservation and habitat restoration efforts and make recreational fishing expensive.

In a report published May 21, the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and California Coastal Conservation Association predicted a ban on traditional lead-based fishing tackle would adversely impact the fishing industry and cut off millions of dollars in conservation funding.

If the state formally adopts the proposed ban on lead-based fishing tackle, anglers could be required to use tungsten- or tin-based gear, both associations predicted.

Bill Shedd, chairman of the Coastal Conservation Association’s California Chapter, said the report, entitled “Effects on the Ban on Traditional-Based Tackle for Fishing in California on Angler Participation and Associated Economic Measures,” outlines how a ban on lead fishing tackle translates into thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue lost.

“While California ranks fifth in the nation in number of anglers, we are dead last in terms of per capita participation,” Shedd said. “However, sportfishing is an important economic generator for our state, and banning lead tackle, as currently being considered by the state of California, is another burden that would increase the cost of fishing, hurt anglers and cost our economy millions of dollars in lost revenue and almost 2,600 jobs.”

He added lead fishing tackle is economical and the “best performing option” for anglers.

The report’s findings were based on two surveys: one of 37 tackle manufacturers and another with 450 anglers who spend $80 annually on lures, flies and terminal tackle.

Based upon the responses, the report concluded fishing activity in California would significantly decrease and the price of alternate gear would double, on average, if the state adopted a ban on lead fishing tackle.

The report also stated if the price of non-lead flies, lures and terminal tackle doubled, about 5 percent of California’s anglers would no longer participate in fishing. According to the report’s estimates, a 5 percent decrease in fishing participation equals a loss of about 80,000 anglers, which would translate to $504,000 in decreased revenue for wildlife restoration and nearly $3 million in reduced license sales.

“The surveys used in the report also suggest that anglers who continue to fish, 18 percent would fish fewer days, each fishing 21 percent fewer days on average,” a statement issued by ASA about the report said. “Combined with anglers leaving the sport, this would reduce total California angler days and expenditures in recreational fishing by two million fewer angler days, and $173 million in lost revenues.”

As many as 2,582 jobs, $113.6 million in salaries and wages, $24.2 million in state and local tax revenue and $26.4 million in federal tax revenues are supported by recreational fishing revenues and could be lost, according to the report, if the state banned lead-based tackle.

About 3 in 4 tackle manufacturers said it was not technically feasible for them to begin producing non-lead substitutes, the report also concluded.

“Although these results cannot be a substitute for a full cost-benefit analysis of a lead ban, the losses measured here show that such a ban has the potential to reduce angler activity in the state,” the report stated. “This lost angler activity would in turn cause economic hardship for individuals, businesses, and communities that benefit from recreational fishing. In addition, reduced fishing activities will reduce the State’s ability to continue providing effective fish and wildlife management by reducing conservation funding by nearly $3.5 million annually.”

The state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control announced in April fishing and angling equipment was included in its Safer Consumer Products Final Priority Product Work Plan. Published April 15, the work plan outlined the department’s priority products and chemicals of concern.

Smaller lead fishing tackle potentially consumed by waterfowl was targeted by the department’s work plan; larger weights used by anglers for offshore salmon fishing or any gear waterfowl is unlikely to ingest are not targeted by the state.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center listed several studies about the impact of lead in waterfowl on its website (on.doi.gov/1FOO8qk).

The American Fisheries Society recently issued a policy statement on lead in sportfishing tackle and said the ingestion of lead fishing tackle has been harmful to loons and swans.

“While the use of lead fishing tackle contributes a small fraction of the total amount of lead found in the environment in comparison to other sources of lead (e.g., surface runoff, atmospheric deposition and mining activities), it exists in a form that can be readily ingested by some species of wildlife,” the society’s policy statement read.

The policy statement continued safer alternatives do exist but anglers might not transition from lead to non-lead fishing tackle.

“A few (ceramics, bismuth, steel, tin, and tungsten), but not all (zinc, brass), alternative metals in fishing tackle have been deemed safe or less toxic if ingested by waterbirds and other birds and mammals. Sinkers and jigheads made from these alternative raw materials, except tungsten, are less dense resulting in a larger sized sinker to obtain a similar weight as with lead,” American Fisheries Society’s policy statement said. “This larger size and higher cost for most alternative metal sinkers and jigheads … makes them less desirable for some anglers.”

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