Water Sports

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Getting the Lead Out: Will It Affect Sport Fishing Events?

8 Feb, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

A late-in-the-day order by outgoing President Barack Obama, banning lead fishing tackle and ammunition, left the fishing and hunting communities up in arms in early January. And even with a memorandum issued from the new White House administration (intended to tamp down the effectiveness of the rule), sports planners need to wonder what the effect will be on their events.

To review, the order requires “the use of nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle to the fullest extent practicable for all activities on service lands, waters and facilities by January 2022, except as needed for law enforcement and safety uses, as provided for in policy.”

Dave Precht, vice president of communications for B.A.S.S., one of the largest sport fishing event owners in the U.S., told SDM that despite concerns, it appears that many of his organization’s events will be unaffected.

“It would only affect those events that take place on federal waters controlled by Fish & Wildlife Service,” he states. “I don’t know that we have any events on those waters.”

The fact that the order would not take effect for five years is also a mitigating factor, as is the fact that these are still early days for any changes to be considered permanent.

“We are closely following this issue but it’s really too early in this particular administration to make a determination,” noted Mary Jane Williamson of the American Sportfishing Association, or ASA. She added the association will continue to follow the event and issue updates as they become necessary.

While the ‘wait and see’ tactic is what seems to be prevailing, there is overriding negative sentiment among event owners and others.

In a recent statement from the ASA, Scott Gudes, the organization’s vice president of government affairs, added, “The sportfishing industry views this unilateral policy to ban lead fishing tackle, which was developed without any input from the industry, other angling organizations and state fish and wildlife agencies, as a complete disregard for the economic and social impact it will have on anglers and the recreational fishing industry.”

The issue is by no means novel. As far back as 2010 (and realistically, long before that), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been petitioned to outlaw lead in bullets and shotgun pellets, as well as in fish hooks and sinkers. Some environmental and ‘green’ concern groups have similarly spent years requesting non-lethal metals, such as copper, to be used.

According to those groups, about 7,000 tons of lead are dispersed into the environment each year through spent ammunition and lost sinkers. Lead poisoning damages has resulted, they state, to animals’ heart, kidneys, reproductive and nervous systems. But gun industry advocates have insisted the lead fears are overblown.

"It's a big jump to say that all the lead ammunition in the entire country should be banned," said Chuck Michel, attorney for the National Rifle Association and the California Rifle and Pistol Association.

Counteraction was taken shortly after swearing-in by the new Trump administration; the day after the Obama rule was issued, a memorandum was drafted that could hinder its effectiveness. The memo announced a freeze on implementing new regulations, pending review. Still, individual jurisdictions within FWS might choose to enforce the rule.

This may be the first of many face-offs between the admnistration and ecological interest groups; Trump has noted his opinion that "enviornmental regulations are out of control."

SDM will continue to follow this developing issue.

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