Wednesday, February 12, 2014


A WATERWORKS column by Gordon Prickett
For the 2/5/2014 Aitkin Independent Age


Years ago reports from state government told us that common loons ingested lead sinkers and jigs and were poisoned. Years ago we also had learned about the consequences of the lead shot in shotgun shells. Waterfowl hunters are now forbidden to hunt with lead shot, but there is no restriction for upland birds. Once there was tetraethyl lead in our gasoline to improve combustion. And lead sulphate was the pigment in white paint. But no more; the damaging effects on small children due to both of these uses was proven, and lead has been removed from gasoline and from paint. Chemists and metallurgists know where to find substitutes. What are we waiting for with our fishing tackle? Talking to the hardware store and bait shop owners in Aitkin did not stop their sales of products that contain lead. Setting up lead tackle exchanges at our Rivers and Lakes Fair moved a few lead-free sinkers and jigs into tackle boxes. But until the State of Minnesota outlaws these deadly weights, we will keep on killing loons. My suggestion is getting action from the legislature on this problem.


It has been more than three years since the Deepwater Horizon platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. On April 20, 2010, the offshore oil rig that recovered petroleum from far beneath the ocean floor blew up with loss of life, and a wide spread contamination of the Gulf waters and shores. Days after the spill the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a damage assessment process to evaluate the impact on seven bird species including the common loon. Scientists from the Biodiversity Research Institute who are conducting a thorough study of loons in this area are noticing toxic hydrocarbons in the blood of loons. As these concentrations increase it appears that hydrocarbons unleashed by the spill are working their way up the food chain to top predators, including loons. Concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) may soon be high enough to harm immune systems or damage organs. The February/March issue of National Wildlife has the story “Secret Lives of Loons” by Laura Tangley.