HL Deb 06 May 1999 vol 600 cc104-6WA
Lord Burton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many birds have been found poisoned by lead shot from shotguns; and how many birds have been found poisoned by lead shot used for fishing tackle by fishermen. [HL2157]

Lord Whitty

Research has estimated that 2.3 per cent. of wild mallards may die each year in Britain as a result of poisoning. Annual mortality of pintails and mallards on the Ouse Washes was estimated as 5 per cent. and 4 per cent. respectively. This is in line with a similar scale of mortality in wildfowl from lead shot poisoning reported for the USA, where estimates suggest that 2–3 per cent. of the autumn waterfowl population die through lead poisoning each year.

The true scale of mortality is difficult to assess, as birds which have been poisoned tend to hide away, and also dead birds are rapidly removed by scavengers. Since most lead weights used in angling have been banned since 1987, ingestion by wildfowl from this source will have decreased.

The Earl of Haddington

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will list all research and case histories involving autopsies on deaths or injuries allegedly caused by the ingestion of lead shot by birds of all types; what evidence they have which enables them to differentiate between the lead shot used in shotgun cartridges and the lead shot weights used by anglers; and whether they will place copies of all such research in the Library of the House. [HL2153]

Lord Whitty

The toxic effects of ingested lead on birds have been known for over a century, and reported from many sources around the world. It would not be possible to list all the published research, but a selection of key papers is listed below.

In the most extensive study from this country, Mudge (1983) was able to distinguish between angling and shotgun lead in some cases, but not in others where pellets were heavily eroded. However, sites for study were chosen on the basis that they were regularly shot over and shotgun lead was considered the main source of lead ingestion for most species except mute swans. Since most angling lead shot weights have been banned since 1987, ingestion by wildfowl from this source will have decreased.

The reference texts are:

Bellrose, F.C.1959. Lead poisoning as a mortality factor in waterfowl populations. Illinois Nat. Hist. Surv. Bull. 27,235–288.

Fawcett D. & van Vessem J.1995. Lead poisoning in waterfowlinternational update report 1995.JNCC Report No.252., Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough.

Goode, D. A.1981. Lead poisoning and swans. Report of the Nature Conservancy Council's Working Group. Nature Conservancy Council, Peterborough.

HMSO 1983. Lead in the environment. Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution: Ninth Report. HMSO, London.

Locke, L. N. & Friend, M.1992. Lead poisoning of avian species other than waterfowl. In: Pain 1992.

Mudge, G. P.1983. The incidence and significance of ingested lead pellet poisoning in British wildfowl. Biological Conservation,27, 333–372.

Olney, P. J. S.1968. The food and feeding habits of pochard. Biological Conservation,1,71–76.

Olney, P. J. S.1960. Lead poisoning in wildfowl. Wildfowl Trust Annual Report,11,123–134, cited in Thomas 1975.

Pain, D. J.1992a. Lead poisoning in waterfowlreview. In: Pain 1992.

Pain, D. J.1992b. Lead poisoning in waterfowl: summary of national reportsIn: Pain 1992.

Pain, D. J.1992c (ed). Lead poisoning of waterfowlProc. of IWRB workshop 1991.IWRB Special Publication No.16, International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau, Slimbridge.

Pain, D. J.1991. Why are lead-poisoned wildfowl so rarely seen: the disappearance of waterfowl carcasses in the Carmargue, France? Wildfowl,42,118–122. Pain, D. J., Amaird-Triquet, C., Bavoux, C., Burneleau, G., Eon, L. & Nicolau-Guillaumet, P.1993. Lead poisoning in wild populations of marsh harriers Circus aeruginosus in the Carmargue and Charente-Maritime, France. Ibid,135,279–386.

Sanderson, G. C.1992. Lead poisoning mortalityIn: Pain 1992. Thomas, G. J.1975.Ingested lead pellets in waterfowl at the Ouse Washes, England 1968–1973. Wildfowl,26,43–48.

Sears, J. & Hunt, A.1991. Lead Poisoning in Mute Swans Cygnus olor in England, Wildfowl, Supplement 1 (1991)383–388.