CONTACT: Liza Poinier: (603) 271-3211
Mark Beauchesne: (603) 271-3212
April 21, 2001

Keep Getting the Lead Out

CONCORD, N.H. - For the sake of the law - and the loons - anglers should safely dispose of their old lead sinkers and jigs and replace them with non-lead alternatives, according to officials from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and the Loon Preservation Committee.

In 2000, New Hampshire became the first state to ban lead sinkers and jigs to protect common loons and other diving birds. The law bans the use of lead sinkers 1 ounce or less and jigs less than 1 inch long on freshwater lakes and ponds.

The ban was enacted to protect loons and other birds that mistakenly pick up lead sinkers as they ingest stones to churn up food in their gizzards. Once in a loon's system, one lead sinker can kill the bird within two weeks.

Anglers have reacted well to the ban, and so have retailers and tackle manufacturers. Non-lead alternatives for sinkers and jigs are now widely available at sporting goods stores.

But because some old sinkers remain on lake bottoms, and some anglers haven't gotten rid of their lead tackle, New Hampshire's loons are still dying. Out of 15 adult loons that died last year, seven died from lead poisoning, according to the Loon Preservation Committee. In 1997, 11 New Hampshire loons died of lead poisoning. Biologists think more loons would have died last year from lead poisoning if there were no ban on lead sinkers.

"Although the lead sinker ban applies only to freshwater lakes and ponds, we'd like to see anglers simply get the lead out of their tackle boxes," said Wayne E. Vetter, executive director of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. "Replace those old sinkers and jigs with the alternatives that work just as well, if not better, than lead. And dispose of the lead tackle safely."

Anglers can get rid of lead sinkers and jigs by taking them to:

  • All Fish and Game regional offices (Concord, Durham, Keene, Lancaster, and New Hampton) and state fish hatcheries (for locations, call 271-3211).

  • Household Hazardous Waste Collections held throughout the state from now through June. Call the Department of Environmental Services at (603) 271-3503, or visit: www.state.nh.us/des/hhw.

  • The Loon Preservation Committee's visitor center on Lee's Mills Road in Moultonborough.

  • Recycling centers and transfer stations in more than 30 communities that belong to the Northeast Resource Recovery Association, (603) 225-6996.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire's loons are doing pretty well, according to Kate Taylor, a biologist for the Loon Preservation Committee. There are an estimated 675 of the state-threatened birds in New Hampshire. Last year, 176 chicks hatched and 128 survived, Taylor said.

For more information, call Fish and Game's Aquatic Resources Education Program at (603) 271-3212. 

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