Toxic Truth

 

HOW MISINFORMATION IS LEADING THE CHARGE TO BAN LEAD TACKLE

Canadian Wildlife Service bureaucrats appear to have made it their career mission to continue to recycle junk science and find creative new ways to falsely portray Canada's eight million anglers as a major threat to the ecosystem. The current CWS foray into the realm of taxpayer-funded fantasy comes in the form of two recently released consultant studies, purportedly about the use of lead in tackle and ammunition. Even non-anglers should be concerned about the lengths to which the federal government will go to fabricate a solution looking for a problem.

The devil is found in the details, which reveal credible science has been replaced by innuendo and a sustained anti-fishing agenda in Canada's environmental policy. A brief history provides perspective. From 2000 to 2005, the CWS and the World Wildlife Fund collaborated in an effort to ban all lead and lead compounds in tackle, ostensibly to protect loons. The WWF claimed 30,000 loons a year in Ontario alone could die by ingesting lead sinkers and jigs. The claim was pure fiction.

 

DEBUNKING THE LOON LOGIC

Together, the CWS and WWF have created a negative image of anglers that continues to be promoted by the federal government, which claims 460 tonnes of lead sinkers are lost every year - the equivalent weight of annually dropping 460 cars into our lakes, rivers and streams. The quantum leap of logic here assumes every lead sinker bought by anglers is lost that same season, and often eaten by an unsuspecting loon. This tonnage figure also includes five- to 10 pound downrigger balls used for deep trolling. Just how big are these loons?

In 2003, the CWS released a so-called research paper entitled Lead Fishing Sinkers and Jigs in Canada: Review of their Use Patterns and Toxic Impacts on Wildlife, also
known as Occasional Paper Number 108. Following protocol, the CWS editorial board
of independent scientists should have peer reviewed the paper before its release.
That did not happen, according to one board member, the late David Ankney, a respected research professor at the University of Western Ontario.

"In my 30 years as a wildlife scientist, I've seen bad science and I've seen abuse of science, but never have I seen so much bad science and abuse of science in one document," Ankney later said. "Those responsible for this disingenuous attempt to mislead Canadians should be fired either for their scientific incompetence or for their chicanery, or both."

Fast-forward to the new federally funded study on lead tackle released earlier this year. It misfires on multiple key points, failing to report on the compromised scientific integrity of the 2003 paper, upon which it is based.

The new study also repeats the grossly exaggerated, time-worn CWS/WWF agenda against fishing. Reads the study's executive summary: "Lead sinkers and jigs ingestion are the single most important cause of death reported for adult common loons in eastern Canada and the U.S." This when the 2003 CWS research paper itself states, "An average of six cases of wildlife mortality from sinker ingestion have been documented annually in Canada between 1987 and 1998." That's not exactly a threat to wildlife populations, let alone adult common loons.

 

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WAITING FOR THE SCIENCE

In 2005, the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association agreed to work cooperatively with Environment Canada while it conducted a comprehensive review to determine if lead fishing tackle indeed posed a risk to the environment, waterfowl or wildlife. The results would determine whether any regulation of lead tackle was justified, but Ottawa never delivered on its promise to report the findings to the CSIA.

Elemental lead occurs naturally in the environment, remaining inert in water and soil, and that's what sinkers and jigs are made of. Molecular lead, on the other hand, is a well-known health hazard, and it has been removed from paint, fuels and other products for many years now. No credible evidence has yet been put forward to show elemental lead also poses human health risks, yet the federal government continues to imply it does - perpetuating the manufactured crisis of anglers causing the sky to fall from lead-lined loons.

 

By Phil Morlock – Outdoor Canada