Lead ban order not greeted warmly in Pennsylvania

It was interesting to learn that John Arway, executive director of the Fish & Boat Commission, said that a lead ban is not needed in Pennsylvania, at least from a fisheries perspective.

He was responding to a question from writer Deborah Weisberg for a Pennsylvania Outdoor News story about the executive order that President Obama signed just before leaving the White House banning the use of lead ammunition and fishing weights on federal lands – which was subsequently nullified by President Trump.

“This isn’t a national issue,” Arway said. “It’s a local-specific issue, to be taken care of like it was in Maine, where loons were ingesting split-shot and sinkers. That’s the strategy that needs to occur.”

The politics of lead abatement, wrapped so tightly into anti-hunting and anti-gun sentiment, is inescapable in our state. But there is no denying that lead is toxic and deadly to birds like eagles, loons and condors.

Maine now bans lead sinkers and jigs, and California is banning lead ammunition to protect endangered condors.

But Pennsylvania has no reason to do the same, Arway told Pennsylvania Outdoor News.

“We’ve worked with DEP (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection) and the (state) health department in collecting fish from waters around the state where we believe they may have elevated concentrations of contaminants, and we never found levels of concern for lead.”

Arway noted that similar sampling of waterfowl in select areas also indicates there’s no lead problem.

A Pennsylvania bald eagle died because of lead poisoning in late January and studies do show a frequent incidence of lead contamination in eagles in the commonwealth. But the Pennsylvania Game Commission hasn’t taken a position on the use of lead shot.

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