SACRAMENTO — Assembly member Bill Quirk’s proposal to ban lead fishing weights and sinkers cleared its first committee hearing, but the legislation was amended before members voted in favor of the proposition.
Assembly Bill 2787 (AB 2787), as amended, will move forward as a study on the potential effects of lead on California wildlife. The bill no longer proposes an outright ban on lead fishing tackle, which would be viewed as a legislative victory among California’s anglers.
Quirk’s bill initially proposed an outright ban on lead fishing weighs and sinkers of 50 grams or lighter. A large contingency of angling groups and recreational fishers across the state immediately opposed the proposal, stating AB 2787 lacked scientific studies to support an all-out ban on lead fishing weights.
The amended bill still posed some concerns to California’s angling lobby.
“While we appreciate the author’s willingness to amend the bill and work with the angling community, the bill has not earned our support – not yet,” Marko Mlikotin, Executive Director of the California Sportfishing League (CSL), said in a released statement. “The study, as defined by the author, is overly broad and could be contracted out to an anti-fishing organization, instead of an objective government agency.”
AB 2787, as amended, would direct a non-government agency to study the effects of lead on California wildlife. A statement issued by CSL shortly after the Assembly committee vote stated it hoped the study would be conducted by an objective government agency.
Mlikotin added CSL coordinated a petition to stop the lead fishing ban proposal and gathered more than 5,500 signatures. He added the amended bill, despite lingering questions about the proposed study, is a victory for California’s anglers.
“Anglers can claim a big victory here, but there is no question that we need to continue to communicate to legislators the importance of protecting recreational fishing’s future,” Mlikotin stated. “Proponents of banning lead fishing tackle will not give up, even if there is no science to justify it.”
Quirk introduced the bill in February, stating lead fishing weights were responsible for killing California’s wildlife. He proposed a ban on the manufacture, sale or purchase of lead-based fishing weights or sinkers by 2025. The proposed ban, as noted earlier, would have applied to lead fishing weights or sinkers of 50 grams or lighter.
“Many birds consume river gravel to aid in mashing and digesting food. Often they accidentally ingest discarded lead fishing weights. The lead poisons their liver, leading to a slow death. Water fowl, in particular, are common victims,” Quirk said in a released statement shortly after the bill’s introduction.
The proposal, however, did not cite specific statistics to demonstrate a connection between small lead fishing tackle and the death of certain wildlife species. Anglers and lobby groups, accordingly, challenged AB 2787, stating it was based on emotion, not evidence.
The Bay Area Assembly member, however, did state lead was listed as a well-known toxin under California’s Proposition 65.
“Since 1987 lead has been listed under Proposition 65 as carcinogenic and reproductive toxin,” Quirk was quoted as saying in a legislative analysis of AB 2787. “It has been banned from a variety of products, including ammunition, paint, gasoline and children’s toys. In 2008 the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has issued a guideline to measure lead exposure to anglers from fishing tackle.
“The methodology in the guideline makes clear that anglers can be exposed to amounts of lead in excess of safe exposure recommendations,” the legislative analysis continued.