The Project

Lead Kills Our Birds…

When Mike Browne was fishing with his dad, he asked “what happens to all the lead weights we lose while fishing?” His dad told him he didn’t know and suggested he do some research. What Browne found shocked and saddened him. Those lead weights which land at the bottom of our ponds can be picked up by unsuspecting loons, swans and other waterfowl and swallowed. Waterfowl often swallow small stones to aid their digestion.

macro Xray scav loon 02Animals with lead poisoning will exhibit physical and behavioral changes, such as loss of balance or tremors. This makes the animal more vulnerable to predators. Birds have trouble taking care of their young, feeding or nesting. Lead poisoning often kills the birds 2-3 weeks after ingesting the lead. This x-ray of a dead loon shows the small stones in a loon gizzard. The bright white oval shape is the lead weight that poisoned this bird.

Loon  Lead Weight2The death does not stop there. Poisoned birds can be killed by predators such as eagles and hawks. Studies have shown that up to 52% of loons, 25% of bald eagles and 32% of trumpeter swans are killed by lead poisoning. The loon in this photo has just been hooked by some fishing gear. Note the lead weight hanging down in front. If she swallows the tackle hanging from her beak, she will probably be poisoned. Read more….

Original Goals

This project was originally an Eagle Scout project begun by Mike Browne in 2007. There were two goals:

  • Collect and safely recycle 40 pounds of lead
  • Educate 500 anglers about the dangers of lead

To do this, Browne decided that going directly to anglers was the best way to do this. Browne contacted over 40 vendors, community groups and fishing tackle manufacturers. He solicited funds from corporations. With support from the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI), he researched the problem and solutions. With funding and donations, he purchased enough materials to make up nearly 800 lead-free fishing weight sample packages to distribute to anglers. He designed a brochure, insert cards and fliers. He and his team of Boy Scouts from St. Agathas Troop 5, Milton, Massachusetts, attended local fishing derbies where they talked to anglers and got them to empty their tackle boxes of dangerous lead.

Since its beginnings, the goals of the program have been achieved – and exceeded!

Project Achievements

Removed 8,000-10,000 sinkers

web_lead-weightsTo date, Browne and his team have collected (and safely recycled) nearly 65 pounds of lead. This means that approximately 8,000-10,000 lead fishing weights have been removed from our environment and safely recycled.

Reached nearly 1500 anglers at fishing derbies

By attending fishing derbies, Browne and his team talked with nearly 1500 anglers.  Since creating and distributing “Get the Lead Out of Fishing” kits, he has been able to expand his outreach so that other community groups can help spread the message of unleaded fishing to hundreds of additional anglers since then!

Talked with over 1000 envirnomental activists, educators, leaders and legislators.

PEYA-presentation-1At local, national and international events, Get the Lead Out of Fishing has handed out educational materials, brochures, and sample weights.

Over and over, Browne found that people were shocked that a simple lead weight could be a leading cause of death for waterfowl and raptors.

Educated hundreds of thousands of anglers, lawmakers and the general public through the media

Through news stories in Field & Stream magazine, the Boston Globe newspaper, the Milton Times newspaper, video interviews with Field and Stream, and news interviews with WBZ-TV Channel 4, WCVB-TV Channel 5 and various other newspapers, Internet video sources and more, Browne and his team have reached hundreds of thousands of anglers. Every interview stresses the importance of getting lead out of our environment and using safer, readily available alternatives.  Read more…

Worked on laws to limit lead

Browne has presented his project at the Massachusetts State House. His research was used to help craft Massachusetts Senate Bill 466, to restrict the use of lead in recreational fishing. He testified in support of this Bill before a Senate subcommittee.

Browne was happy that Massachusetts passed a law limiting lead in fishing in 2009 which went into effect in 2012.

Met with national and local leaders

johnson-1Browne has met with local and national leaders on this project. President George Bush, United States Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, Director of the Environmental Protection Agency Steve Johnson (photo at right), and Director of US Fish and Wildlife H. Dale Hall have all cited this project in keynote addresses. Browne has met with local, state and national political leaders. All agree on the importance of this project.

What’s Next

friends of scouting ad 2009.inddGet the Lead Out of Fishing simply cannot attend every fishing derby or stand next to consumers at their fishing retailers. But what we can do is educate anglers to make smart, responsible buying decisions next time they replace fishing gear. Lead-free weights are readily available at most fishing retailers. Anglers can solve the problem of lead in fishing by knowing that making a choice means giving our birds a chance and saving them from a painful death by lead poisoning.

Browne and his team would love to see other groups throughout the United States and beyond take steps to Get the Lead Out of Fishing. He has set up kits that groups could order so they could educate anglers in their own neighborhoods at fishing derbies or other environmental programs (send Mike an email requesting supplies). This program is generously funded by SeaWorld Environmental Excellence Award.

Watch this web site for more information!