Report: Lead from Hunting and Fishing Still Pollutes

August 6, 2008

Although lead contamination has been reduced in products such as paint and gasoline, a number of important sources remain, including leaded ammunition and fishing tackle. Concerned about the magnitude of this ongoing contamination, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies whose members come from government agencies at all levels in the US, Canada, and Mexico asked two professional societies to synthesize the known science on the problem. The Wildlife Society and the American Fisheries Society commissioned and paid for a report, which was released July 11, 2008. The report is peer-reviewed, and the seven authors are affiliated with universities and federal and state agencies.

Leaded bullets have been banned in some settings, through various government actions, for many years. But millions of pounds of lead continue to be added to the environment every year, via bullets and tackle, according to the authors. Unleaded options are available, but aren't widely used.

Existing science has found adverse impacts from the lead on wildlife such as waterbirds, hawks, eagles, California condors, reptiles, and small mammals. In addition, groundwater contamination has been documented, particularly near heavily-used areas such as shooting ranges and popular hunting fields. In fact, the authors found that US shooting ranges alone bear the burden of about 80,000 tons of lead shot and bullets each year. Well-used upland hunting areas can contain as many as 400,000 leaded shot per acre. The authors estimate that more than 4,300 tons of lead fishing sinkers are sold annually in the US.

Along with extensive information on the science and occurrence of leaded ammunition and tackle, the 62-page report contains lengthy lists of current US and Canadian regulations addressing leaded fishing tackle, including specific areas affected, where applicable. It also gives some information regarding laws and practices in other countries. With fishing season in full swing, and hunting season right around the corner, the report can provide fodder for timely stories for your audience.


For many hunting and fishing organizations, additional information on lead in ammunition and tackle, and numerous other sources, see TipSheets of Jun. 21, 2006; May 16, 2001; and Sept. 22, 1999.


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