For decades, lead poisoning has been one of the leading causes of loon mortality in Maine, but we’re working to prevent it.
Loons ingest a striking amount of fishing tackle that is either lost or left behind, or in fish that have ingested tackle. When swallowing small pebbles to aid their digestion, loons can sometimes accidentally swallow lead tackle that has mixed into the lakebed, and become poisoned. Some of this tackle contains hazardous and life threatening chemicals – chief among them is lead.
It takes 2-4 weeks for adult loons to die once they have consumed lead. Blindness, disorientation, paralysis, seizures, and “wing droop” are amongst some of the most common symptoms associated with lead poisoning. Death by lead poisoning is avoidable. Thankfully, this legislative session, lawmakers have the power to put a stop to these traumatic and miserable endings for this beloved species.
Maine Audubon supported a 2013 bill that prohibited the sale of small-sized lead sinkers and jigs—but the law only applied to unpainted jigs. Painted lead tackle is common and the paint in no way reduces the danger of the lead. LD 958: An Act to Expand Protections to Maine’s Loons from Lead Poisoning by Prohibiting the Sale and Use of Certain Painted Lead Jigs seeks to include painted lead jigs in the prohibition, which we hope will result in much less lead in our waterways and in our loons.
The first step for this legislation is a hearing in front of the Maine State Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, which is scheduled for May 8. This Committee will be the first to decide whether or not this loophole gets closed.
A demonstration of public support is critical for this bill to move forward. Click here to add your name to our petition in support of LD 958 to help ensure that our state’s beloved loons will be visiting Maine lakes and ponds for generations to come.
We’ll keep all our members and supporters appraised of other opportunities to reach out to their representatives in the Legislature to urge their support.
Exactly ten years after the last bill to protect loons from lead was passed, the time is right to revisit this loophole to further protect the health and safety of this species. We know you care about loons. Now you can help change the laws to protect them.
Learn more about our actions to help loons by visiting our Fish Lead Free website; our Maine Loon Restoration Project website; and our information about what to do if you find a dead or injured loon, or a loon egg. Also read the op-ed published in the Maine Sunday Telegram on April 23, 2023: Maine Voices: What would fishing in Maine be without the wildlife?