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Fishing With Lead

October 7, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

On August 23rd, five environmental groups petitioned the EPA asking them to outlaw fishing tackle and ammunition made of lead under their Toxic Substances Control Act powers to regulate substances that “present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.” “An estimated 10 million to 20 million birds and other animals die each year from lead poisoning in the United States,” the groups wrote in a statement announcing the petition. “This occurs when animals scavenge on carcasses shot and contaminated with lead bullet fragments, or pick up and eat spent lead-shot pellets or lost fishing weights, mistaking them for food or grit. Some animals die a painful death from lead poisoning while others suffer for years from its debilitating effects.”

On August 27th the EPA denied the petition as it pertains to ammunition because, it said, the Toxic Substances Control Act specifically exempts ammunition from its purview. But they have yet to issue a ruling involving lead fishing tackle.

In response, Sen. Blanche Lincoln [D, AR] wants to preemptively block the EPA from regulating fishing equipment as well. On September 28, she introduced the Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Protection Act, which would add I.R.S. Code Section 4161, re: “sports fishing equipment” and “bows and arrows,” to the exclusions in regulatory authorty granted by the Toxic Substances Control Act. The bill also contains language to clarify — just in case — that the EPA does in fact have regulatory authority over bullets. The I.R.S. code specifically mentions firearms, shells and cartridges; the language of Lincoln’s bill adds all substances produced for use in firearms, shells and cartridges (i.e. bullets) to the exempted items.

“Banning lead ammunition and fishing tackle would significantly drive up manufacturing costs, directly hurting the thousands of Arkansans who enjoy hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting," Lincoln said upon introducing the bill. "This ban would also be a blow to more than 20,000 Arkansans who depend on fishing tackle and ammunition manufacturing for their livelihoods.”

The EPA is required to respond to the petition re: lead tackle within 90 days, which is November 20th. That’s just 5 days after the lame-duck session is set to convene. There’s almost certainly not time for this to go through before the EPA’s petition response is required. But, hey, at least Lincoln got this one introduced in time to show Arkansas midterm voters that dangling pieces of lead in rivers is a-okay in her book.

Btw, the best article I can find on the subject of lead fishing tackle is at The Straight Dope.

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