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Loons and jigs: A compromise or a wait

A state House committee wants more time to study a proposal that would ban more lead fishing gear in New Hampshire. That is probably the best move, but it carries a significant risk.

The proposal is Senate Bill 224, which would ban lead fishing jigs of 2.5 inches or less. Its goal is to save loons, which ingest lead sinkers and jigs, then die.

Loons — beautiful, red-eyed waterbirds — are something of a tourist attraction in New Hampshire, as they live in cold climates and are uncommon farther south. According to the Moultonborough-based Loon Preservation Committee, about half of the state's loon fatalities come from ingesting lead fishing gear.

The state already bans the use and sale of very small lead sinkers and jigs of up to one inch long. Originally, SB 224 would have expanded the ban to jigs of up to 2.5 inches long within 60 days of its passage. But the Senate improved the bill by banning the use of such jigs starting in 2015 and the sale of them starting in 2018.

That is the compromise bill the House must consider. The Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee recommends holding the bill for further study. The question for the House, then, is whether it thinks a better compromise will be achieved in a year. The Legislature's pro-business majority could well be considerably less pro-business next year. This compromise bill is not bad. Will a summer's worth of study make it better?

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