Loons and Lead

The largest known cause of New Hampshire adult loon mortality is ingestion of fishing tackle made of the toxic metal lead—specifically, lead sinkers and jigs (weighted hooks) weighing 1 oz. or less.  New Hampshire lost at least 124 adult loons to ingested lead sinkers and jigs between 1989 and 2011. The loss of these loons, which do not reproduce until their sixth year of life on average, has had a large negative impact on our state’s small loon population.  Survival of adult loons is the most important factor in assuring the continued viability of our state’s loon population.

Legislative Efforts

After nearly two decades, vital protections for loons have finally been signed into law.  These protections will help ensure that the outstanding work of many volunteers to rebuild NH’s loon population will not be erased by easily preventable mortality from lead fishing tackle. Lead fishing sinkers and jigs caused nearly half (48%) of documented NH adult loon mortality over the last twenty-five years, and the majority of these lead-related deaths were due to currently legal lead jigs. While the one ounce or less weight standard for lead sinkers is protective of most loons, the one inch or less length standard for prohibited jigs is completely inadequate.  All of the lead jigs removed from dead NH adult loons have measured well over one inch at the time of ingestion (before the hook was broken off in the loon’s stomach), and most have measured more than two inches.  Effective June 1, 2016, SB 89 will remedy our current law’s major deficiency by banning the sale and freshwater use of lead sinkers and lead jigs weighing one ounce or less.  Implementing the same standard for prohibited lead sinkers and lead jigs will make the law protective and compliance easier.  The three-year phase in period gives anglers and retailers time to transition to non-lead tackle.

Please Use Non-Lead Fishing Tackle!

Non-lead tackle is available in a wide variety of styles and sizes to meet the needs of anglers.  The most common alternative materials are tungsten, bismuth-tin, and steel, although other materials are also available (e.g. ceramics, stone, composite materials).  Bismuth-tin and steel tackle are comparably priced to equivalent lead tackle items, while tungsten tackle costs $1-2 more than equivalent lead tackle.  Tungsten, however, performs better than other tackle and is favored by anglers on professional fishing circuits. Click here for a list of non-lead fishing tackle suppliers.