New Hampshire groups watching out for loons are teaming up to buy back lead fishing tackle that's known to poison the bird and is banned by state law.
Anglers will be able to exchange one ounce or more of the banned tackle for a $10 gift certificate redeemable at two tackle shops, one in Meredith and the other in Newbury.
The offer runs from June 2 through Labor Day, or until the 200 certificates are claimed.
Loons are aquatic birds that dive for their food, and they can become poisoned by consuming lead tackle in fish. As of 2017, the common loon population nationwide was relatively healthy at around 14,000 pairs in 14 states. But several states, including New Hampshire, have struggled to grow their numbers. Last year, 300 breeding pairs were recorded in the state — up from 204 pairs a decade ago — and lead poisoning has been blamed on stunting their recovery.
Current law bans the sale and freshwater use of lead sinkers and jigs that weigh one ounce or less. It went into effect on June 1, 2016. Last year, though, eight loons died from lead tackle poisoning. One died this year, and wildlife rehabilitators are trying to save another loon who ingested the tackle.
"The issue now is grandpa's old tackle box in the dusty corner of the garage," said Harry Vogel, senior biologist and executive director of the Loon Preservation Committee. "That tackle box is still full of lead tackle and it is still being used, to the detriment of our loons.
"Now, we said we are going to put down cold, hard cash to get that lead tackle out of the system and get it replaced with non-toxic tackle."
Only banned tackle is eligible for exchange as part of the buy-back program. One exchange is permitted per customer.
The committee, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department and the stores partnered on the buyback offer.