Anglers are being urged to avoid purchasing lead weights in sizes that are illegal for angling use.

The call – made by the Angling Trades Association (ATA) – comes after it conducted research into the sale of lead shot on the internet and in ‘pound shops’. This revealed that some illegal weights are being offered for sale, leaving both the sellers and the users liable to prosecution.

Since 1986, lead fishing weights of between 0.06 and 28.35 grams (No.6 shot to 1oz) have been banned from sale and use for the purpose of weighting fishing lines in the UK. The legislation was enacted specifically to protect mute swans from accidental poisoning through the ingestion of accidentally discarded lead weights. A large range of non-toxic alternatives have been developed and these weights are in widespread use.

Despite the non-toxic alternatives being widely available, lead split shot in the illegal sizes are still being offered for sale on the internet. In most cases, the seller will point out the illegality of using the shot for weighting anglers’ lines in England and Wales but this is very often found only in the smallest of print at the bottom of the advert. ‘Pound shops’ occasionally offer illegal lead weights for sale, but the weights are invariably withdrawn from sale once the owners are alerted to any breach of the law.

Naidre Werner, Chairman of the ATA, said: “Anglers have a long and proud record of environmental responsibility. Nevertheless, among the millions who fish each year will be some people who are unfamiliar with the lead weights legislation who might, through ignorance, break the law. The ATA is encouraging every angler to check his or her tackle carefully to ensure that it meets the regulations and to carefully check the small print on any online purchases that they make”.

Trading Standards have responsibility for enforcing the legislation on the sale of illegal lead weights, and the use of illegal weight is covered by the regional fishery byelaws, upheld by the Environment Agency (in England and Wales).

The ATA is contacting all 200 Trading Standards departments, run by local authorities, to ensure that officers are aware of the law and the need to prevent illegal lead weights being offered for sale.

Commenting on the initiative, Naidre continued: “Legitimate manufacturers and retailers support this initiative, particularly because it removes any trading advantage that some sellers may hope to gain by offering illegal weights for sale. This will also help prevent anglers inadvertently purchasing and using illegal equipment”.