Loons, Line, and Lead

Protecting our wildlife from fishing-related injuries

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. 

One of the birds especially affected by lead is the loon, one of Anchorage’s favorite animals. 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

In order to combat line-related wildlife deaths, we have installed monofilament recycling bins at 20 locations around the Anchorage area at local lakes where line may be deposited.

To protect birds from lead poisoning, we visit local lakes and offer free non-lead fishing tackle and explanations about the issue. Additionally, we are providing education to the public through tabling events at local markets and youth programs.

We want to protect wildlife as much as you, so here’s what you can do:
  1. Buy non-lead tackle

  2. Do not leave your line in the environment-- pick up any line you see (whether it’s yours or someone else’s).

  3. Recycle fishing line in monofilament recycling bins.

  4. Spread the word about the hazards of lead and line. 

Who's involved?

The collaborative project involves the 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 Jean Tam and Scott Christy. 

Donate here to support the Waterways Council project, our wildlife, and our loons.