Lead sinker ban: down, but not out

Associate Editor

St. Paul A spokesman for state fishing tackle companies says a
proposed bill to ban most lead sinkers in Minnesota probably won’t
be heard by state legislative committees, but that it’s “not really
dead.”

The bill, proposed by DFLers Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon of
Duluth and House Rep. Bill Hilty of Finlayson would prohibit
anglers from using lead sinkers one ounce or less in state waters.
It has been referred to environment and natural resources
committees in both the House and Senate.

The legislators last week told stakeholders they wouldn’t
request hearings this session, according to Jim Klatt, a lobbyist
speaking on behalf of tackle companies. However, Klatt said, “Now
that it’s out there, it could be attached to an omnibus bill as a
rider.

“It’s comatose, but it’s not dead,” he said of the
legislation.

Klatt said he’ll continue to research the matter, meet with
legislators, and be prepared should the bill appear as a rider
later in the session.

Ken Fitch, executive director of Minnesota Audubon, says the
current legislative was not proposed at the suggestion of the local
Audubon organization. And while the group supports controls on lead
use, the timing and language of the bill are questionable.

“We want to get as much lead out of the water as possible,” he
said. “But we want to work with stakeholder groups to find a
practical way to do it.”

Fitch said such things as additional research and a phase-in
period are vital to a lead-ban bill.

Bill sponsors have pointed to research in the northeastern
United States showing the harmful effects of lead on loons.

Members of the angling community say that’s not enough to
support a ban on tackle that’s found in virtually every angler’s
tackle box in Minnesota.

“What happened in New England has little bearing on what’s
happening on the lakes of Minnesota,” Klatt said.

Fitch said loons can serve as a barometer regarding the dangers
of lead, but “nobody is presuming this is a species-level problem.
It’s certainly killing other water birds.” Research has shown birds
such as egrets, ducks, geese, swans, and a variety of gulls have
been known to ingest lead sinkers in the United States.

In the future, Fitch said, it may be shown that lead in the
water has negative effects on humans and other wildlife.

Ted Takasaki, president and CEO of Brainerd-based Lindy-Little
Joe, Inc., tackle company, said not only does the lead ban
legislation lack research to back it, but such a rule would be
unenforceable by the state’s conservation officers.

“When you have a law that’s not deemed necessary and is
unenforceable, it’s not a good law,” he said.

Takasaki said during his efforts to head off the state proposal,
he did much research regarding loon mortality.

“There are much more sinister threats to loons that should be
looked at,” he said, including mercury poisoning, lack of nesting
habitat, shoreline development, commercial fishing nets, and boat
traffic in which loons are struck by boats.

Currently, there are various bans on lead sinkers in the states
of New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York.

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