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Lawmakers consider additional fishing tackle restrictions to curb lead poisoning in Maine loons

FILE - In this July 2007 file photo, a loon with a chick on its back makes its way across Pierce Pond near North New Portland, Maine.
Pat Wellenbach
/
AP
FILE - In this July 2007 file photo, a loon with a chick on its back makes its way across Pierce Pond near North New Portland, Maine.

Lawmakers are considering additional restrictions on fishing tackle in order to help curb lead poisoning in the state's loon population.

In 2013, Maine passed a law banning the sale of certain lead sinkers and unpainted jigs, after lead poisoning was shown to be a leading cause of death among loons. But conservation groups say that sales of small, painted lead jigs are still allowed, and a new bill would ban the practice.

The measure faces opposition from several sports fishing groups, who point to the additional upfront expense of switching out fishing gear. And while the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife says it supports the bill, the agency's Francis Brautigam acknowledged the additional costs.

"I think over the years, anglers have accumulated quite a bit of lead in their tackle boxes. And there are some cost differentials, in looking at purchasing and upgrading to the alternatives. So there is an initial out of pocket cost that the angling public will bear," Brautigam said.

The state and Maine Audubon have launched a program where anglers can exchange lead fishing tackle for a voucher to purchase lead-free alternatives.