ACE Act earns approval of full U.S. Senate

Conservation bill, which could protect lead fishing tackle, is now being considered in the House of Representatives.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Two weeks ago we reported on the passage of America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, or the ACE Act, out of a U.S. Senate committee. It didn’t take long for the same proposal to gain the approval of the entire U.S. Senate, as the ACE Act moves forward to the House of Representatives.

The ACE Act would move on to the White House if a majority of Representatives approve the bill, which is seen by national fishing advocates as a policy benefiting anglers.

Portions of the bill focus on regional fishing or conservation matters, but there are two issues of national concern: lead fishing tackle and the National Fish Habitat Partnership program.

The ACE Act could create a national exemption for “unwarranted federal regulations and bans” of lead fishing tackle, according to the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).

“Lead fishing tackle, which is commonly used in nearly all forms of fishing and poses no national threat to wildlife populations or human health, would be exempted from unwarranted federal regulations and bans,” ASA staff said in a statement supporting the ACE Act.

California has been contemplating a ban on lead fishing tackle for several years. Lead fishing tackle was on the list of items the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control contemplated regulating or banning; the listed items were announced as part of a 2015 policy study.

An Assembly member proposed a statewide ban on the manufacture, sale or purchase of fishing weights and sinkers in 2018, but the bill didn’t advance out of the legislative process. Several questions have been raised in association with fishing tackle ban proposals. Is there direct evidence linking the existence of lead fishing tackle to the loss of habitat or wildlife, for example?

At least six other states – Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington – have also attempted to regulate or ban lead fishing tackle.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pushed to ban lead fishing weights on federal lands in Pres. Barack Obama’s final days in the White House. The policy, however, was reversed a short time later, when Pres. Donald J. Trump became the nation’s chief executive.

The ACE Act could also ensure authorization of the National Fish Habitat Partnership program.

“This is a state- and locally-driven conservation initiative that funds the on-the-ground fish habitat restoration project which would benefit recreational fishing opportunities,” ASA staff said in a statement supporting the ACE Act. “Federally authorizing this program with key policy improvements will help make sure of the program’s future success.”

Other elements of the ACE Act focus on restoration and conservation of the Chesapeake Bay and collecting fisheries data in the Great Lakes region.

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