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Biologist Receives Award for Work with Loons and Lead

Date Posted: May 3, 2000

Andrew "Drew" Major, a contaminants biologist with the New England Field Office, was the 1999 winner of the Northeast Region's prestigious John S. Gottschalk Partnership Award. Each year the award is presented to an individual who has shown outstanding use of partnerships in fish and wildlife resource conservation.

In 1994, Drew formed the Northeast Loon Study Workgroup, consisting of representatives of state government, academia, non-profit conservation organizations, and private industry, to examine contaminant effects on loons.

The efforts and findings of the workgroup have been published in professional journals and newspapers and reported on television and radio. The members initiated a still-ongoing effort to educate anglers about the impacts of lead tackle, centered around loon-lead brochures produced by the Service and wildlife agencies of New Hampshire and Vermont.

The common loon (Gavia immer) is listed as endangered under Vermont’s Endangered Species Act and as threatened under New Hampshire’s Endangered Species Conservation Act and is a species of concern in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Lead sinkers used for fishing are a major cause of loon deaths. In fact, findings from a Tufts University study suggest that 56 percent of adult loon deaths on lakes and fresh-water breeding grounds in New England is caused by lead sinkers. Loons ingest lead sinkers mistakenly when swallowing small stones to aid in digestion or by eating fish that have swallowed a sinker.

In 1998, due in large part to the work of the Northeast Loon Study Workgroup, the State of New Hampshire passed legislation that bans the use of most lead fishing sinkers and jigs because of the significant mortality that lead tackle is causing to common loons in the Northeast. Shortly after, the State of Maine passed similar legislation.

Linda Morse (603) 225-1411

Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. Tufts Study Points to Lead Sinkers as Major Cause of Mortality in Loons

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal Register. April 13, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 70). Proposal to Establish "Lead Free Fishing Areas" on Specific Units of the National Wildlife Refuge System

Last updated: June 12, 2015