NEWS has emerged from Brussels that there are no plans to introduce a European-wide lead ban – news welcomed by manufacturers of lead fishing weights.
The European Union (EU) has confirmed the decision not to implement an EU-wide ban following findings of a study into the advantages and drawbacks of restricting the marketing and use of lead in ammunition, fishing sinkers and candlewicks.
The study, which began in August 2004, was designed to assess the amount and impact of lead left in the environment, and the impact a potential restriction would have on business and private users. Among other findings, the study revealed that: “Only iron presents a clear improvement compared to lead considering toxicity as well as other environmental issues, while other alternatives suffer from one or more drawbacks.” The report continued: “Change to a production based on steel and iron in general involves a total change of machinery,” and concluded: “Based on the experience from UK and Denmark, it is assessed that many small-scale manufacturers may be pushed out of the market.”
The findings were echoed by Janet Doyle, general manager of EFTTA, who commented that an EU-wide ban translates into costs in production, operations and administration for EFTTA members. However, EFTTA still encourages members to consider the use of lead alternatives.
Sylvie Luong of lead manufacturer Fonderie Lemer, in France, said: “This is surprising news, and for our company it is very good to hear.”
The news has also been greeted with relief in eastern Europe. Petr Minarek of Czech-based company Sema said: “As a producer of lead fishing weights, this confirmation from the EU is good for us and the 20 staff who work on lead production in our factory. We do actually have some ideas about how to progress with alternatives to lead but we don’t have enough information from the EU at the current time. Anyway, if we were to change our technology and production it would cost a lot of money, so we are pleased that lead is not to be banned.”
The announcement by the EU ends years of speculation in the UK over the issue, and has calmed the concerns of some of the leading makers of lead weights for coarse fishing. Jill and Tony Walker of Armaled International told TTW: “Armaled is pleased that the study has been completed, and that lead will not be banned in the fishing industry within the EU. It really confirms what we already knew in 2003 when we paid for a private study to be carried out within an English university, which concluded similar results. We were concerned about the environmental effects of lead and also for the future of our business, although we were confident that we were not causing any major problems to the environment. We took the liberty of investigating alternative materials, manufacturing and the cost increases to ourselves, the retailers and, ultimately, the paying public. We are pleased that what we felt we already knew has now officially been confirmed.”
Others, however, such as Pallatrax, whose lead-alternative Stonze weights have found favour with many anglers in Britain and Europe, were not so upbeat. Simon Pomeroy, MD of Pallatrax, said: “Understanding the EU response, I am still yet to see its study and the justification for these findings.  In the first instance I can only imagine how disappointed campaigners for the lead ban must feel.
“Plainly speaking, if anglers at my complex were to lose 500lb of lead each season, that would obviously equate to 5,000lb over a 10-year period. This would be a conservative estimate when running the fishery as a day ticket water, especially with common angling practices where it seems that you are almost required to jettison your lead on every pick-up!  If somebody was to say to me: “Would you be happy with 5,000lb of lead, a known toxin, being dumped into your lake over a 10-year period?” I think we all know there is only one answer to what you can easily see is an environmental issue.”
Simon continued: “In my opinion, this issue is partly the responsibility of the angling trade.  At the end of the day, having a ‘head-in-the-sand’ attitude doesn’t change anything. I understand that the study still leaves countries to make up their own mind on this matter; I would like to think that common sense will prevail and I am firmly of the opinion that the campaign to ban lead will be successful sometime in the near future, following in the footsteps of countries that already have.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, an unsuccessful attempt to sponsor legislation to ban small lead tackle is being seen as having the potential to kick-start another push towards a ban. A study from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources claimed that about a ton of lead was lost in five lakes during the summer of 2004 alone. Senator Yvonne Prettner Solon who sponsored the proposed legislation said: “The issue is still out there and we still need to take action. We need a grass-roots effort by people in Minnesota to convince the legislature to do the right thing – protect the environment and ban lead tackle.”
Currently, Denmark is the only European country with a general ban on the use of lead for fishing weights, and in the UK there is a ban of lead shot above 0.06g, and sinkers below 28.35g in freshwater. In Sweden, voluntary local prohibitions exist on the use of lead sinkers in some rivers, and while the EU will not introduce an EU-wide ban on lead, action at national level by member states has not been ruled out in the future.

Tackle Trade World