A radical move to eliminate the use of lead fishing weights in the NetherlandsPallatrax Angling
When news broke recently of a radical move to eliminate the use of lead weights in the Netherlands it’s a good bet that no one was cheering more loudly than Simon Pomeroy.
The former retailer, fishery owner and now tackle manufacturer has been beating the drum for the replacement of lead in fishing – often to deaf ears – for more than ten years. Tackling him on the subject is like breaching a dam. All the passion, frustration and anger compounded by ten years of not being heard pour out as we discuss an issue that continues to divide the sport and the trade.
He is scathing in his criticism of an industry he regards as irresponsible for largely failing to embrace the banning of a substance considered to be toxic to the environment and to humans.
“The industry, pretty much as a whole, has made no effort to reduce the use of lead and is unlikely to respond willingly to the Netherlands initiative,” he says. “It has actually lobbied to protect lead; lobbying supported by and paid for by the industry.
“The current situation is the result of negligence and lack of duty of care. It distresses me that the ill effects of lead are being ignored in the cause of profit. Profit does not have to be an ugly word, but in this case, it is.
“The only reason lead is used in fishing weights is because it is cheaper and easier to use than other materials.
“We shouldn’t even be asking questions about costs and change of practices given the much more crucial issues of health and the environment.
“Even the most naïve manufacturer should see the futility of the pro-lead argument. It is not a question of will there be change, but when will that change happen? Those who wait for legislation to force change will be perceived as not caring and will be vilified.”
Pomeroy is particularly critical of the practice of leaving lead in the water through lead-eject systems, particularly in carp fishing. “This reckless method is actually promoted by some brand leaders,” he says. “It started in the UK and has been copied in Europe. Films about how to use it have been popularised on the internet.
“These systems are designed so that lead can be ejected on every take. Many anglers have come to think this is the right thing to do and many tons of lead have been dropped into water systems across Europe. This is a real environmental issue, but the industry does not seem to recognise this.
“I read one article where two anglers lost hundreds of 4.5 ounce leads in a 48-hour session, all by design.
“When this issue really blows up I can see the perpetrators being made to retrieve the lead that has been dumped. The cost of the clean-up will be massive. Ignorance will be no defence.
“The general public must be horrified by what the angling community is doing. The perception is that fishing is poisoning water supplies for families and children.”
It concerns Pomeroy that people will think his position on the issue stems from the fact that his company makes lead-free alternatives. But he is no johnnie-come-lately to the debate.
He began marketing his Stonze range in 2007 because he couldn’t believe the use of lead would prevail, and it was ten years ago that he appeared in the very first issue of this magazine arguing the case for the use of non-toxic weights. And by urging other manufacturers to go down the non-toxic route he is in effect inviting more competition. He is aware that his outspoken views have made him a pariah among the keep-lead lobby, but stands by his principles.
“I genuinely fear for the impact this will have on the sport and the environment going forward. As an industry we should be very worried – but are we worried enough?”
He has not been encouraged by developments over the last decade but sees promise in the recent Dutch initiative to reduce lead weights by 30% in the next three years. It puts the matter more squarely in the public domain and provides additional traction. He also sees government involvement as critical.
“The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture is behind the plan and has started something that the industry has absolutely no control over. The Dutch have clearly understood the depth of the problem.
“There is a whole new dynamic to consider – people power. The industry’s historic control has been taken away and pressure for change is going to rise.
“I also understand that in the UK a leading member of parliament is now aware of the issue and is bringing it to the attention of Environment Minister, Michael Gove. That could be a turning point.
“Given that fishing’s governing bodies in this country are not responding sufficiently to the facts, the sport is inviting a huge exposé in the popular national media condemning angling.
“I have personally spoken to the Environment Agency and the Angling Trust, but my views appear to have fallen on deaf ears, which is beyond me. Can they not see the obvious problem? Or is it just a case of profit coming first and environment a distant second?”
Pomeroy ‘would love’ to see EFTTA become the agent for change, but believes its call to action in 2015, which urged the industry to control and manage the reduction of lead, has been largely ignored and that the industry will continue to resist bans.
However, he takes heart from the recent development in the Netherlands, believing it will change the way the issue is viewed and lead to tougher rulings on lead elsewhere in Europe. Denmark has already banned lead weights and he points to manufacturers across Europe that are already producing non-toxic alternatives. “Companies continuing to make lead are in denial. Non-toxic weights are out there. Manufacturing processes are out there. A change could be implemented quickly and smoothly if the industry worked together.”
Pomeroy concedes that the effect of a lead ban will run deep in the industry, with a large proportion of the manufacturing sector being touched by the consequences. Many companies either manufacture themselves or support businesses that have lead ranges in their portfolios.
“Yes, there will be initial pain, but on the positive side this could bring a whole new sector into the market with new companies and new product development,” he suggests. “Most importantly, it will present the industry and the sport in a whole new light in the eyes of the world at large. The overall gain would be hugely significant. Surely that has to be good for the long-term future of this industry.”