A LEADING environmental scientist and campaigner has called for action to stop tens of thousands of carp anglers from using the practice of discarding lead weights when fish are hooked.

The environmental campaigner’s move has come  over fears that the practice of dropping carp weights is polluting our water environment.

In an open letter to various relevant bodies including the Environment Agency and the Angling Trust, Dr Stuart McLanaghan, who runs an ecological consultancy, highlights the potential size of the problem and the dangers of the practice to fish welfare, fishery health and water quality.

Dr McLanaghan

Dr McLanaghan (pictured), who is an angler, states: “Lead is a heavy metal and toxic even at very low levels of exposure.

“The World Health Organisation has identified lead as one of ten chemicals of major public health concern needing action by EU members.

“When lead fishing weights are discarded, the lead is spread in the wider environment, making retrieval complicated.

“Certain freshwater fisheries are also sources for drinking water abstraction and I am calling for voluntary action before regulations are brought in.

“It is hard to come up with exact figures as to the extent of the problem, but based on the sale of lead weights and the huge number of carp anglers and the extent of the practice, I have conservatively calculated that there could be as many as one million lead weights and 100 tons of lead being dropped in our inland waters each year.

“The practice of lead dropping is defended on fish welfare grounds but it is also heavily promoted by manufacturers as a way of improving the percentage of bites that are hooked and fish landed so that they sell more sinkers.

“There is also a danger of this lead littering giving ammunition to anti-angling groups.

“Denmark has in fact already totally banned the use and import of any fishing product containing lead and the European Commission are conducting a review of the issue to see whether regulation is called for.

“There are good alternatives to lead available that we can use like Pallatrax stone sinkers and Dinsmore’s lead-free versions,” he concludes.

Equally controversially Dr McLanaghan also campaigns for the use of single hooks only for predator fishing , as featured in a previous edition of Angler’s Mail magazine. His move on that front has not received a lot of support to date.

Simon Pomeroy is amongst the anglers backing Dr Lanaghan’s moves – but other prominent figures do not agree.

Reactions to the lead-dropping views

Managing director of Pallatrax, 
Simon Pomeroy, said: “I know I will be accused of wanting to promote our own product but I’ve always been anti dropping any kind of weight, so I’m delighted at seeing such a voice of reason, an independent and accredited voice, campaigning to see the practice banned and efforts made to retrieve the lead as best we can.”

Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust , responded: “Carp anglers should be applauded for their concern for fish welfare, rather than being criticised.

“There is nothing in this letter that constitutes hard evidence of toxicity from lead weights discarded in waters especially as many have protective coverings.

“Whilst lead products remain in legal use in many aspects of our lives anglers should be as free to use them for release when fish are hooked in waters with heavy weed growth.

Derek Stritton of the Carp Society commented: “This practice, developed by carp anglers for use in waters affected by weed, is a sound one based on fish welfare, and to prevent fish loss, or them becoming tethered in weed.

“We would merely suggest discretion in the “dumping of leads” in those waters where it is not necessary.”

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