A Short History of Senate Bill 224
The NH Lakes Association and the Loon Preservation Committee are the primary advocates behind Senate Bill 224 that will increase the restrictions on lead fishing tackle - the primary known cause of death of adult loons in New Hampshire. SB 224 is opposed by certain bass fishing organizations and some tackle retailers because of the perceived economic affects it would have on individual anglers and the tackle industry. The major arguments are laid out below, followed by the version of the bill as passed by the NH Senate on March 28th.
In response to the concerns expressed about the science, we effectively defended extensive peer-reviewed scientific research - specific to New Hampshire lakes - that supports the following unequivocal position: Fully half of adult loons collected by the Loon Preservation Committee and necropsied by the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine died as a result of ingested lead fishing tackle. Remnants of lead jig heads weighing up to 0.74 ounces have been found in loons. Lead tackle is having a population-level impact on New Hampshire's state-threatened loon population.
In response to the concerns expressed about definitions and enforceability, NH Fish and Game Department staff reviewed its definitions of fishing lures, correlated that with the range of jigs and other lures currently being sold, and consulted its law enforcement counterparts. The agency staff provided us with more precise language to describe jigs, the names of other types of lures that would not be affected by SB 224, and advised that a length-based definition of prohibited lead jigs would be more enforceable than a weight-based definition.
In response to concerns about the economic impact, we conducted extensive research and produced documentation and non-lead tackle that illuminated two things: 1. That the potential economic impacts as expressed by some of the bill's opponents have been grossly exaggerated, and 2. That delaying the implementation of the bill would alleviate most of the impacts that might otherwise occur. Non-lead jig alternatives are presently on the market, the price of which are less than, equal to or only slightly greater than lead-based tackle. By delaying implementation for over two years, tackle inventories of both individual anglers and retailers will naturally turn over, allowing both groups to gradually replace their inventories with non-lead alternatives to comply with the law.
The March 16, 2012 proposed amendment to SB 224 reflected several significant compromises being offered by us, the proponents. First, we moved from a weight standard to a length standard in response to concerns about enforceability. Second, we proposed a length standard of 2.5", a length that market research showed corresponded to ¾ ounce jigs (a drop from the originally proposed 1 ounce standard). Third, to alleviate the economic concerns, we proposed that the law take effect January 1, 2015.
On March 22, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed the version of SB224 as described above. On March 28, the full Senate also passed this version of the bill on a floor vote and then amended it further to make the new lead use prohibitions effective January 1, 2015, and the sale of the prohibited lead jigs effective January 1, 2018.