Loons and Lead Poisoning
When loons forage the bottom of lakes for gravel (which their gizzards use to break down fish bones), they not only ingest gravel but also anything else laying on the bottom, like lead sinkers and jigs. Birds also may ingest lead when feeding on fish that are attached to lead fishing tackle or, like the loon above, when simply trying to get free from entanglement in fishing line that has tackle on it.
Just one small sinker is enough to kill an adult loon. Within hours of ingestion, lead gets into the bird’s system and causes tremors, convulsions, disorientation, and ultimately death. It is a sad thing. It’s also something that our choices can prevent.
Two Simple Choices That Could Save a Loon’s Life
1. Retrieve all fishing tackle and broken line when you are fishing. Be sure to dispose of the broken fishing line in a trash receptacle to prevent it from entangling wildlife.
2. Use only non-toxic fishing tackle. Sinkers and jigs do not have to be made out of lead. Inexpensive, effective, and safe alternatives have been developed from non-toxic materials like tin, bismuth, steel, and ceramic. They work just as well as lead. Get the lead out by buying non-toxic tackle and swapping your existing lead pieces for non-toxic alternatives. These alternatives are safer for water birds and anglers alike.
Lead Tackle Exchange Program
Through PWA’s Lead Tackle Exchange Program, anglers can bring in their lead sinkers and jigs and exchange them for non-lead alternatives for FREE. Call ahead to PWA for an appointment for tackle exchange at 207-563-2196.
With the leadership of volunteers, PWA also has equipped the two main campgrounds on Pemaquid Pond with tackle exchange materials to help expand the program’s reach.
PWA’s Lead Tackle Exchange Program, which began in 2013, is made possible through partnership with the Maine Audubon Society and the Somerset County Soil & Water Conservation District.