News & Notes

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Audubon and Partners Launch Fish Lead-Free Campaign

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
Posted on:


For Immediate Release

July 23, 2014

Contact: Michelle Smith, Communications & Marketing Manager
[email protected]
(207) 781-2330 x209
Mobile: (207) 838-0511


Maine Audubon and Partners Launch Fish Lead-Free Campaign
Passage of 2013 Loon Protection Bill spurs two-year educational initiative

Falmouth – Maine Audubon and its partners announced today the launch of the Fish Lead Free campaign. The goal of the campaign is to increase the use of lead-free tackle on Maine’s lakes and ponds by providing lead-free products and lead-tackle recycling assistance for anglers, as well as building awareness of Maine’s current lead tackle laws. Fish Lead Free is a cooperative partnership among Maine Audubon, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine BASS Nation, Maine Lakes Society and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. Generous funding for the Fish Lead-Free campaign has been provided by the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust and Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust.

The campaign will offer lead tackle exchange kits for organizations and individuals, access to a loon multi-media presentation and other resources to help anglers transition to lead-free tackle. The campaign also funds a Tufts Veterinary student to help with the collection and necropsy of dead loons found on Maine’s lakes and ponds. To sign up for more information and to see a schedule of presentations, please visit If you find a dead loon in Maine, please call the Loon Hotline at (207) 781-6180 x275 to report the location and to receive more information about the necropsy process.

Can you spot the lead sinkers on a lake bottom?

Can you spot the lead sinkers on a lake bottom?

2013 Lead Tackle Legislation

In 2013, the Maine State Legislature banned the sale and use of lead fishing sinkers one ounce or less, with phase-in of a ban on the sale of bare lead-headed jigs 2.5” long or less in September 2016, and the use of those jigs in September 2017.

The passage of the law was prompted by findings that lead poisoning is the leading cause of death of adult loons in Maine. Almost one third of dead adult loons recovered from Maine’s lakes and ponds over the last 25 years had died from lead poisoning. For every two loons that die in Maine from natural causes like illness or disease, one loon dies from ingesting a small lead sinker or jig-head. Adult loons catch fish with lead sinkers and jigs attached or they pick up lead objects while eating gravel they need for digestion from lake bottoms.

Lead is highly toxic and just one lead object can lead to lead poisoning in a loon. Loons can die within two to four weeks post-ingestion. Early signs of lead poisoning include abnormal behavior like beaching themselves and not swimming away from people or predators. Over time, symptoms progress to general organ failure, including tremors and muscle paralysis. Loons become easy targets for their predators and are unable to take care of their chicks once the onset of lead poisoning has begun.

How can you help?

  • Switch to lead-free tackle made from nontoxic materials like tin, bismuth and steel
  • Sign up your community group for a free “Loons and Lead” presentation
  • Attend a local tackle exchange or work with Maine Audubon to organize one in your community
  • Report dead loons to Maine Audubon’s Dead Loon Hotline at (207) 781-6180 x275.


About Maine Audubon
Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization in the state, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife. For everyone.

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