Hassan Signs Bill to Protect Loons

Concord — The sale and use of small lead sinkers and jigs will be phased out in New Hampshire over the next three years.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, on Tuesday signed bipartisan legislation that bans the freshwater use or sale of any lead jig or sinker weighing one ounce or less, starting June 1, 2016.

“This commonsense, bipartisan measure will help protect our fragile loon population from deadly lead poisoning, preserving an important part of the natural beauty of New Hampshire that drives our tourism economy,” Hassan said in a statement.

The bill, introduced this year by Republican Sen. Jeanie Forrester of Meredith, passed the Republican-led Senate in March on a voice vote and cleared the Democratic-led House on a 225-142 vote in May.

Lead sinkers weighing an ounce or less are already banned under state law. The bill signed yesterday by Hassan clarifies that definition and also bans jigs weighing an ounce or less; previously, state law banned lead jigs measuring an inch or less in length.

Advocates said the ban will help protect loons, which can eat the smaller objects and subsequently die from lead poisoning. And, they said, the three-year delay will give fishermen and retailers plenty of time to switch over to lead-free supplies.

“Ingestion of toxic lead fishing tackle is by far the largest known cause of New Hampshire adult loon death, but — with this legislation’s enactment into law — also the most easily preventable,” said Harry Vogel, executive director of the Loon Preservation Committee, in a statement. “Loons face varied and growing challenges, but this is a big step to ensure that New Hampshire residents and visitors will continue to hear the call of the loon on our lakes.”

New Hampshire considers the loon a “threatened” species, and loons enjoy federal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.