This summer, the state is paying anglers to give up their lead fishing tackle, in an effort to protect loons from lead poisoning.
Loons are a threatened species that’s iconic in New England. They can eat lead sinkers or jigs inside fish, or they might ingest bits of lead among the pebbles they swallow to help digest food.
“The smallest little split shot that you can imagine, if it’s ingested by a loon, is going to kill that bird within two to four weeks,” says Harry Vogel, the executive director of the Loon Preservation Committee in Moultonborough.
He says at least eight loons died of lead poisoning in New Hampshire last year – accounting for almost half of all known adult loon deaths in the state.
Another two loons have died from ingesting lead so far this year.
Vogel says New Hampshire banned the sale of lead tackle in 2016 – but it’s still used in other states, and can turn up in older gear.
“The thing that we want people to do is, go into that dusty corner of the garage and pick out grandpa’s old tackle box and clean that out,” Vogel says.
Until Labor Day, fishermen can trade an ounce or more of lead tackle for a $10 gift certificate at AJ's Tackle in Meredith and the Tackle Shack in Newbury.
Vogel says they have 200 gift certificates available to start, but this is a pilot program that could expand in the future, depending on the response.