By Tom Paulek
Editor’s note: Tom Paulek of Idyllwild was a California Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist for 28 years. During that time for 17 years, he was the San Jacinto Wildlife Area manager. He retired in 2006. This article is from the Friends of the San Jacinto Valley September 2014 newsletter.
Last October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB 711 — the ban on the use of lead ammunition for hunting in California.
The lead ban will not go into effect until July 2019. In the interim, California upland game hunters can continue to use lead shot for hunting dove, pheasant, snipe and other small game species.
The adverse impact of spent lead ammunition on wildlife populations has been well documented over many years. More recent research indicates the discharge of lead ammunition may be a significant public health concern. The Wildlife Society’s 2009 Position Statement on lead ammunition reports: “When lead that is imbedded in game meat becomes exposed to acid in the human stomach, lead may be absorbed into the system. Even if a lead pellet completely passes through an animal, a small amount of lead may be left in the tissue and may be absorbed by a person consuming the meat.”
The Sept. 28, 2009, Scientific American article “Wild Meat Raises Lead Exposure” notes: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested 736 people, mostly adults, in six North Dakota cities and found that those who ate wild game had 50 percent more lead in their blood than those who did not eat it. The lead exposure was highest among people who consumed not only venison, but also birds and other game, according to the study published last month in the journal Environmental Research.”
“What was most troubling is that as wild game consumption increases, blood-lead levels increase,” said study co-author Many Jean Brown, chief of the CDC’s lead prevention branch. “The strong recommendation we would make is that pregnant women should not consume this meat.”
The article continued with “… recent research has reported that children’s mental abilities are reduced by lead at levels far below the CDC guideline. Brown and others say there is no threshold below which lead does not cause harm, particularly with children.”
The Friends participated in the California Fish and Game Commission adoption of this year’s Upland Game hunting regulations. We presented the Friends’ May 21, 2014, comment letter and testified at the Aug. 6, 2014, public hearing adopting the hunting regulations. Our testimony presented the science-based lead hazard information and once again requested the commission include public health advisory in the upcoming Upland Hunting Regulation booklet advising California hunters of the hazards of the consumption of game meat shot with lead ammunition.
The commission ignored the May 21 letter as well as our testimony at the Aug. 6 public hearing, which they summarily dismissed.
Looking forward, the Friends may ultimately be stymied again by commission misfeasance. AB 711 requires the commission to promulgate regulations to fully implement the ban on lead ammunition by July 1, 2015.
The commission is now taking public input on regulations necessary to implement the 2019 lead ban. We plan to again raise the issue/impact of the need for a public health advisory warning hunters of the hazard of the consumption of game meat shot with lead ammunition.
Given the Fish and Game Commission’s poor record of implementing its CEQA duties, we are not confident this obvious environmental impact will receive the consideration required by law.