Australian moves to ban lead in shot and fishing sinkers
Ms Elizabeth O’Brien
The Lead Group
PO Box 161
Dear Ms O’Brien,
Thank you for your online enquiry of 23 December 2004 regarding moves to ban lead in shot and fishing sinkers. I apologise for the delay in replying.
The Australian Government, at the time of signing the OECD Lead Declaration, directed resources into the immediate environmental concerns of that time, which was the phasing out of leaded petrol and the use of lead in paint. Leaded petrol was successfully phased out in 2001 and the ‘Lead Alert’ awareness-raising program for the environmental and health effects of lead in paint and remediation measures was launched in the 1990s. Lead Alert information booklets can be obtained by contacting the Department’s Community Information Unit on 1800 803 772.
To date, State and Territory governments have largely been responsible for restricting or banning of the use of lead shot in Australia. Where outright bans on the use of lead shot have not been introduced, as an alternative, restrictions on the use of lead shot have been implemented in areas of Australia where lead poisoning of wildlife is known to occur, or high lead densities have been recorded. This has been the case in the Northern Territory, where the NT Conservation Commission banned the use of lead shot at hunting reserves.
The following actions have been taken by State and Territory governments to limit the amount of spent lead shot accumulating in waterways:
- ACT: hunting of native wildlife banned.
- WA: recreational duck and quail hunting banned.
- SA: use of lead shot banned.
- NT: use of lead shot banned in hunting reserves (Lambells Lagoon, Howard Springs, Shoal Bay Coastal Reserve and Harrison Dam Hunting Reserve).
- QLD: Use of lead shot for duck hunting banned. This ban has recently been extended to include waterfowl hunting and will come into force at the beginning of the next hunting season.
- TAS: Use of lead shot banned on public wetlands and Crown Land starting from the beginning of the 2005 hunting season.
- NSW: Recreational duck hunting banned.
- VIC: The use of lead shot for duck hunting is banned.
In addition to these regulations on the use of lead shot, steel shot has been widely available in Australia for more than two decades. According to statistics provided by the Lead Development Association International, only 2% of lead consumption by end-use is used to produce lead shot. Shooters have, mostly voluntarily and partially due to State and Territory government regulations, substituted lead shot for less toxic alternatives (such as steel or bismuth shot).
Approximately 25% of angling in Australia takes place in freshwater; fly, lure and bait fishing, with lead sinkers mostly used in the latter. In addition, the typical freshwater fishing environment is not usually associated with shallow wetlands where ingestion of lead sinkers by waterfowl is likely to occur. Rather, freshwater fishing usually takes place in flowing rivers or deep water impoundments rather than in shallow wetland areas. As a result of these factors, the potential for ingestion of lead pellets by waterfowl is relatively low.
The Australian Government has set guidelines for maximum concentrations of a range of contaminants (including lead) in drinking water, irrigation water, fresh water and marine water to protect human health and the environment. To view these guidelines, I recommend you visit the National Chemical Reference Guide, which will be launched shortly, and can be viewed at www.deh.gov.au/chemicals-guide
I hope this information assists you. If you would like to discuss this matter further, please contact Sophie Day on 02 6274 1750 or Sophie.Day@deh.gov.au
Thank you for your email.
Chemical Policy Section
Environment Protection Branch
Department of the Environment and Heritage
18 March 2005