After retiring almost two years ago several people have told me that I need to either take up golf or fishing, …both being a good excuse for doing relatively nothing. Since it became obvious many years ago how much I suck at golf, that left fishing. So last week I outfitted myself with a new rod and the various other stuff that they call tackle.
As I was putting the split shot lead sinkers into the carefully prepared compartment in my new tackle box, the word “lead” tripped an alarm in my head. I thought of not only the number of lead fishing sinkers that must get lost in the lakes and rivers of our natural environment, but also the lead shot from shotguns that must get deposited into forests and streams regularly.
It turns out the use of lead shot for fowl hunting was banned in 1991 after it was well established that wild fowl were dying off from lead poisoning. Stats show that about 6 000 tons of lead shot are used every year, while about 2 700 tons of lead sinkers are sold (and must be lost unless people are hoarding them). But the cost seems not to be born by the fish, as there is little evidence to show that there is a consequence with them. The cost is still being born by the birds, who often eat the shot and smaller sinkers. Huge amounts of this poisonous heavy metal being released into the environment just can’t be good, and there are probably other consequences that haven’t been explored yet, such as lead dissolving into ground water. After all, I didn’t even think of this kind of pollution until that alarm went off. I’m surprised that it hasn’t received more attention, -especially since it is a problem that can be corrected.
Steel shot is now used to replace lead when hunting fowl. I’m not sure about other hunting. Steel and other metal sinkers can be substituted for lead when fishing. Both replacement alternatives are several times more expensive, but I think that it would be worth the cost. I know that steel shot can’t replace lead in some hunting situations because you can’t control the spread of the shot with steel the way you can with lead, but other alternatives can easily be developed that will behave the same way as lead without the environmental impact.