Loons, Line, and Lead
Protecting our wildlife from fishing-related injuries
Why the concern?
Anchorage has several local lakes and creeks that offer fishing for salmon, rainbow trout, and Dolly Varden, which is a great outdoor activity. Unfortunately, along with fishing often comes the improper disposal of monofilament line, lead weights, and hooks. These items often cause injury or are a death sentence for birds, fish, and other wildlife.
Each year, the Bird Treatment and Learning Center, a rehabilitation clinic in Anchorage, receives hundreds of calls about birds entangled in fishing line. When line is left in the environment, it traps, injures, and even kills birds. The clinic takes in as many birds as it can, but cannot ensure that all birds will survive their injury. Line entanglement is so widespread that hundreds of other birds cannot be rescued or brought in.
Lead poisoning is another fishing related hazard for birds. Most tackle, especially weights and jigs, are made of lead, which is a toxic metal that can be fatal when ingested by birds and other wildlife. Tragically, many of these poisoned birds are not rescued until it is too late.
Loons, one of Anchorage’s iconic birds, are especially affected by lead. Loons swallow their fish whole, which means that they automatically consume any lead sinkers attached to their prey. The loon’s powerful gizzards, organs that break down their food, are strong enough to dissolve ingested lead sinkers, so the toxic metal rapidly disperses throughout their bodies. Alarmingly, it only takes one lead sinker to kill a loon.
In New Hampshire, the loons have experienced a population level effect as a result of lead poisoning moralities. Recognizing this tragic example, we are focused on protecting the loons that live here in Anchorage, which is the largest city (by human population) to have nesting loons. They are a pillar of Alaskan ecosystems and the embodiment of our campaign.
What we are doing
Recycling Monofilament Fishing Line:
In 2015, with a matching grant from the Anchorage Parks Foundation and an Eagle Scout project by Kyler Ince, AWC was able to place monofilament collection bins at 21 popular fishing locations. The response to the program has been phenomenal with a considerable amount of fishing line collected and recycled. In April 2022, the Alaska Conservation Foundation granted additional funding to upgrade and deploy new recycling bins. The older bins were replaced at Jewel Lake (1), Cheney Lake (2), DeLong Lake (1), Taku Lake (2), Sand Lake (1), Little Campbell Lake (1), Lake Otis (1), Ship Creek (7), and Campbell Creek (2).
In summer 2022, visits were made to local lakes and creeks by summer intern Chloe Hansen where free non-lead fishing tackle was offered along with explanations about the issue. Additionally, we provided education to the public through tabling events at local markets and youth programs.
Loon on Jewel Lake with fishing line in its beak
2022 Summer Intern Chloe Hansen at Cheney Lake
We want to protect wildlife as much as you, so here’s what you can do:
Buy non-lead tackle
Do not leave your line in the environment-- pick up any line you see (whether it’s yours or someone else’s).
Recycle fishing line and lead tackle in monofilament recycling bins or pack it out.
Spread the word about the hazards of lead and line.
The collaborative project involves the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage Waterways Council, and the Bird Treatment and Learning Center. It is supported by the Alaska Conservation Association with generous donations from the Jean Tam and Scott Christy legacy.
Donate here to support this project that is overseen by the Anchorage Waterways Council.