Photo by: Marie Shelden
Update: Fall 2013
LD 730: An Act to Protect Maine’s Loons by Banning Lead Sinkers and Jigs
Lead poisoning is the leading cause of death of adult loons in Maine; it is responsible for close to one third of the documented mortality over the past 25 years. LD 730 was passed by both the House and Senate; it bans the sale and use of lead fishing sinkers one ounce or less, as well as bare lead-headed jigs 2.5” long or less.
2013 also marks the 30th anniversary of the loon count, Maine Audubon’s longest-running citizen science effort. You can read about the history of the count, profiles of loon volunteers and purchase a commemorative loon necklace at maineaudubon.org/loons.
Why do loons ingest lead jigs and sinkers?
- Adult loons catch fish with lost or broken lead jigs and sinkers or they accidentally pick up lead objects while eating gravel from lake bottoms.
- Once ingested, lead objects quickly dissolve in loon gizzards, which elevates lead levels in blood and tissues and causes death in as little as two weeks.
- Lead sinkers and jigs kill otherwise healthy adult loons that breed on Maine’s lakes and ponds.
Lead-headed jigs make up 58% of the lead objects recovered from lead-poisoned loons in Maine
- Of 90 objects recovered from lead-poisoned loons that died between 1987 and 2012, 52 objects were lead jig heads.
- Lead sinkers in a range of sizes continue to be a cause of death for adult loons in Maine, despite the 2002 ban on sinkers one-half ounce or less.
Alternative jigs and sinkers made from, tin, bismuth and tungsten are readily available
- Lead-free sinkers and jigs are slightly more expensive than their lead counterparts, but are safe and nontoxic for people and wildlife.
In the News
- Loons’ life and death under the microscope - Kennebec Journal, September 1, 2013
- Bird counters crazy about their loons - August 11, 2013, Portland Press Herald
- Counting Maine’s Loons - Sun Journal, July 14, 2013
- Maine loon count held for 30th year - Boston Herald, July 13, 2013
- Loon Necklace to Benefit Maine Audubon from Turtle Love Co. - MaineToday, July 10, 2013