The sportfishing community is asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rule on the side of scientific fish and wildlife population management and dismiss a petition filed in August by the Center for Biological Diversity and four other groups requesting that the Agency ban the manufacture and sale of lead in fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Should the EPA rule in favor of the petitioners - the deadline is November 1 - this decision will have a significant, negative impact on recreational anglers and the sportfishing industry. The ruling will create a ban on all lead in fishing tackle, including sinkers, jigs, weighted fly line, and components that contain lead, such as brass and ballast in a wide variety of lures, and other tackle.
"The petitioners lack credible science to back their request. When it comes to far-reaching decisions such as a ban on all lead in fishing tackle, all available scientific information must be brought to bear on that decision" said American Sportfishing Association Vice President Gordon Robertson. "The petitioners claim that lead is threatening loons across the nation, but several studies, including the most recent population study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, say that loon populations are either stable or increasing throughout most of their range."
Robertson noted, "Such an extensive ban is not only unwarranted, but it is wildly unpopular. Over 43,000 anglers have written the EPA requesting the dismissal of this rule. In addition, numerous conservation and sporting organizations have requested the EPA to dismiss the petition, which is highlighted by a letter signed by 30 groups representing the recreational fishing, hunting, and the shooting sports, including the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, the Center for Coastal Conservation and the International Game Fish Association. The sportfishing community urges the EPA to dismiss the petition and respect the requests of our nation's sportsmen and women.
"In addition to the outcry of opposition from anglers," Roberston added, "approximately 100 Members of Congress have contacted EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson requesting that the petition be dismissed. Because this issue continues to reappear, legislation has been introduced in both the House and the Senate to prevent such a large and unwarranted ban on lead fishing tackle and ensure that any future regulations are established in response to scientific data instead of unjustified petitions."
In 1992 the EPA received a similar petition to ban lead fishing tackle and in 1995 the Agency abandoned the proposed rule because there was no threat to bird populations and the economic impact was determined to be significant. "The sportfishing community is incredulous that the EPA has yet to dismiss this petition when there is no new evidence that such a ban is needed or any change in the reasons why the EPA abandoned the rule in 1995," Robertson said.
Additional reasons that support dismissing the petition are:
• The data does not support a federal ban on lead sinkers used for fishing. In general, bird populations, including loons and other waterfowl species, are subject to many more substantial threats such as habitat loss through shoreline development. Any lead restrictions on fishing tackle need to be based on sound science that supports the appropriate action for a particular water body or species.
• A federal ban of the use of lead in fishing tackle will have a significant negative impact on recreational anglers and fisheries resources, but a negligible impact on waterfowl populations.
• Depending on the alternative metal and current prevailing raw material costs, non-lead fishing tackle products can cost from ten to twenty times more than lead products. Non-lead products may not be as available and most do not perform as well. Mandatory transitioning to non-lead fishing tackle would require significant and costly changes from both the industry and anglers.
• America's 60 million anglers generate over $45 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation's economy, creating employment for over one million people.
"In fact, it's not the EPA's job to regulate fishing. That is the authority of the state fish and wildlife agencies that regulate recreational fishing, including means of take and the equipment used," Robertson concluded. "The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies has also requested that the EPA dismiss the petition, citing a lack of science and EPA authority."
Anglers are encouraged to visit www.keepamericafishing.org to learn more about this issue.