Ban on searching birds with lead shot in EU wetlands hailed as ‘large milestone’

Capturing birds utilizing lead shot will likely be banned in all wetlands within the European Union from this week.

The regulation will apply to all 27 EU nations, in addition to Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. An estimated a million waterbirds die of lead poisoning within the EU yearly.

Underneath the ban adopted by the European Fee from 16 February, shooters should use non-toxic ammunition corresponding to metal, bismuth or different non-toxic metals in or inside 100 metres of wetlands.

The transfer has been welcomed by campaigners. “That is large,” mentioned Barbara Herrero, senior EU nature coverage officer at BirdLife Europe. “Regardless of banning lead from paint, pencils and just about every little thing else a number of many years in the past, it was nonetheless allowed to poison our shared surroundings – even when options exist.

“With this ban, the EU has addressed a big a part of the issue. We now name on EU nations to ensure the ban is enforced.”

Within the EU, 44,000 tonnes of lead results in the surroundings yearly; 57% from sports activities capturing, 32% from searching, and 11% from fishing.

Waterbirds are believed to eat the shot, mistaking it for meals or grit, which they should assist digest meals. Scavengers and predatory birds are poisoned by consuming lead shot of their prey. Birds which have ingested lead are sometimes weakened because of the launch of harmful toxins and usually tend to be focused by predators, which in flip spreads the contamination by the ecosystem.

“It’s such an enormous milestone,” mentioned Dr Julia Newth, from the Wildfowl & Wetlands Belief (WWT). “Lead shot has been contaminating wetlands for greater than a century; lastly, this regulation is coming into pressure. It’s one thing to be celebrated, however there’s extra work to be achieved, with wider restrictions at the moment being thought-about within the European Union.”

A shotgun loaded with cartridges, prepared for the hunt. {Photograph}: Pascal Pochard-Casabianca/AFP/Getty

The UK, the place as much as 100,000 waterbirds die of lead poisoning every year, is contemplating introducing wider restrictions on lead ammunition throughout all habitats, with a choice pushed again to subsequent yr.

Newth helps an entire ban on lead ammunition in all British habitats. “Many species of waterbirds, corresponding to Bewick’s swans, feed exterior wetlands in areas the place it’s at the moment authorized to shoot with lead and grow to be poisoned,” she mentioned. “We all know present restrictions aren’t working.”

In England and Wales, utilizing lead shot to kill wildfowl on foreshores and listed wetlands is banned, however researchers say there’s poor compliance. Lead shot is already banned in wetlands in Northern Eire and Scotland, however in accordance with the WWT, the variety of birds consuming it has not gone down. This might be as a result of shooters are persevering with to make use of it or as a result of the birds have been consuming lead shot in fields the place it might nonetheless be used.

Recreation killed with lead shot can also be a threat to individuals, probably harming the growing mind and nervous system, with kids and pregnant girls most weak. Waitrose – Britain’s largest retailer of recreation – has banned the sale of recreation shot with lead because of these well being issues.

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Utilizing lead shot over any land is already banned in Denmark, the Netherlands and the Flanders area of Belgium, with metal a preferred different. France, Greece, Sweden, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta have bans in place in wetlands. Different nations have partial bans in place, both on particular wetlands or to be used on waterfowl. Poland, Romania and Eire don’t have any restrictions in any respect.

“This EU-wide restriction harmonises the nationwide laws already in place in varied varieties,” says the EU’s European Chemical substances Company, which is pushing for extra intensive bans throughout the union, together with bullets utilized in searching and outside sports activities capturing, in addition to lead used as weights and in lures for angling.

Wetlands, which make up 11% of the EU, embrace many wildlife-rich habitats together with estuaries, deltas, rivers, floodplains, lakes, freshwater marshes, peatlands and synthetic wetlands. Enforcement officers, which might be nationwide police or protected space rangers, will likely be monitoring whether or not persons are utilizing lead shot.

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