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Chances are if you enjoy recreational fishing, you consider yourself a
nature lover of sorts.You'd probably be surprised, then, that your
hobby may be killing more wild things than the fish you bring home for

If you are using lead sinkers on your line, and if  you lose one every
now and again, you could be contributing to the untimely death of
loons and other wildlife.

You may already know that lead is poisonous. That's why it has been
banned from paint and fuel. That's why lead shot for hunting is no
longer allowed within 300 metres of waterways, and why lead sinkers
and jigs are now forbidden in Canada's national parks and national
wildlife areas.

Still, about 30 per cent of all loons that die in Ontario are victims
of unwitting poisoning due to stray lead jigs or sinkers.

"Any bird that is a bottom feeder, that picks up...any kind of grit to
use in its gizzard to grind food down, is susceptible," explains Vicki
McKay of the Rondeau Bay Watershed Rehabilitation Program.

The environmental group mounted its first "Take a little Lead Out!"
project in the summer of 1997 to encourage fishers to exchange their
lead jigs and sinkers for non-toxic bismuth and tin. 

Environment Canada's Action 21 Community Funding Program 
contributed $3,000 to the $31,000 project. First mounted by the Bay of
Quinte Remedial Action Plan and the Lower Trent Region Conservation
Authority on Lake Ontario, the program has proven successful on Lake
Erie as well.

So successful, in fact, that the Rondeau Bay group collected just over
105 kilograms of lead sinkers, jigs and split shot from 514 former
users of lead.  With a supply of alternative materials left over, the
group is seeking funding to continue the exchange program through the
summer and winter of 1998, even though the original funding has run

When lead gets mixed with other grit in a water bird's gizzard, it
gets ground down and enters the blood stream. Studies on Canadian
loons have shown that all it takes is a single lead sinker to poison a
bird so badly that its digestive system could break down, it could
lose the ability to walk or fly, have trouble mating and caring for
its young -- or it could die.

In their weakened state, lead-poisoned loons are easier prey, and that
puts predators higher up the food chain at risk as well.

"It's very important to get the information out there as to why
sinkers and jigs are a problem," says McKay. "This raises public
awareness. It gets people doing something for the environment on a
voluntary basis rather than being legislated and forced into doing

The Rondeau Bay Watershed Rehabilitation Program teamed up with 
local retailers to offer the alternative materials for 
free. Meanwhile, two students hired to survey fishers' catches took
time to point out the benefits of using alternative metals.

Local radio stations helped out with public service announcements and
reduced-rate advertising, while a number of fishing and wildlife
organizations spread the word to their members. Besides offering the
new sinkers and jigs in stores, the Watershed Rehabilitation Program
workers attended outdoor community events. McKay estimates the program
got its no-lead message to as many as 95,000 people.

McKay hopes the need for a free exchange of sinkers and jigs will
eventually disappear.

"One of the things we have been trying to do is to get the local
retailers to start purchasing and selling non-toxic alternatives."

So far, two Rondeau area stores plan to stock the alternative sinkers
and jigs, while two others plan to offer them on a trial basis.

"I think at some point in time the public has to take the
responsibility for it and take a look at what's environmentally
friendly and what's the right thing to do," says McKay.

"Take a little Lead Out!" is one of more than 100 Ontario initiatives
that have received partial funding from the Action 21 Community
Funding Program since its inception in 1995. Recently renamed
EcoAction 2000, the federal government program encourages non-profit
organizations to take environmental action at the local level. To be
eligible, projects must have matching funds or in-kind support,
respond to community needs and have measurable environmental results.
Funding applications are continually being accepted for deadlines that
fall on May 1, October 1 and February 1.

Other partners in "Take a little Lead Out!" were: Human Resources
Development Canada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Animal
Welfare Foundation of Canada, Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Fund, Bi
Logic Tackle, CFCO AM 630/CKSY FM 95, Water Gremlin, and the
Southwestern Ontario Bass Association.

To find out more about EcoAction 2000 funding in Ontario and how your
community group can qualify, contact the EcoAction information line at
1-800-661-7785, or email to: ecoaction2000@ec.gc.ca. See the EcoAction
2000 web site on Environment Canada's Green Lane at