Letters/Online Comments

Editorial: Anti-Fishing Activists Attack Tackle

Remember when PETA came out with its campaign calling for people to refer to fish as “sea kittens,” in an effort to make them seem cute, cuddly and somehow worthy of protection against seafood lovers and anglers? People laughed, but few took PETA seriously in this effort.            

Nobody was laughing about a more recent attack against sportfishing by the Center for Biological Diversity, which in 2010 joined several other anti-fishing groups in calling for the EPA to ban the use of all lead in fishing tackle — after it was unsuccessful in banning lead in ammunition used by hunters.            

The EPA ruled that the call for a lead ban was scientifically unjustified, since there is no evidence that lead in tackle causes any hazards to the marine environment, waterfowl or fish. However, the anti-fishing interests were undeterred and last year submitted a new petition calling for a ban on lead in tackle, on the grounds that it would somehow “protect” waterfowl.            

The EPA rejected the petition, again citing the fact that studies have proven lead in tackle causes no harm to waterfowl. The petitioning groups have now sued, challenging the decision.            

Sport anglers are understandably concerned about this new wave of efforts to impose burdensome new regulations in an attempt to dramatically restrict fishing — even when there is strong scientific evidence to prove that specific measures are unwarranted. Fortunately, new legislation may prevent many of these moves from anti-fishing organizations.

Thanks in large part to input from thousands of anglers across the country, the U.S. House of Representatives in April passed the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 (H.R. 4089). This legislation would block scientifically unjustified efforts by groups seeking to ban lead fishing tackle and would improve angler access to federal lands.

The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act would establish an exemption for traditional fishing tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act and clarify the exemption that already exists for the shooting and hunting sports.

“We applaud the House members for passing this legislation that will protect the sportfishing community from unwarranted and unjustified restrictions on fishing equipment,” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association. “The House-passed provision supports and reinforces the EPA’s numerous decisions. The petitioners’ continuing efforts, through petitions and lawsuits, demonstrated a clear need for this legislative solution.  

“It is a shame that these groups have chosen to focus their efforts against recreational fishing and hunting, which support healthy resources, instead of the more significant threats to waterfowl such as habitat loss, gill nets, predation by domestic and feral animals and water quality problems,” Robertson added.

Another bill currently making its way through the U.S. Senate (S. 838) would further clarify the authority of the EPA to ensure that future regulations covering fishing tackle are based on scientific research, not endless petitions from anti-fishing groups. It also has bipartisan support, with 27 co-sponsors — but it will probably not pass unless anglers make their voices heard NOW.

Contact Sen. Dianne Feinstien (at feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (at boxer.senate.gov/en/contact/) to let them know that you support S. 838 — and visit keepamericafishing.com to find out more about S. 838 and H.R. 4089.

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