EU Expected to Move towards Ban on Lead Gunshot in Wetlands

Bonn, 23 September 2020 - Following a four-year-long process conducted under the auspices of REACH, the EU’s over-arching legal framework for the regulation of the use of chemicals, EU Member States voted in favour of a Union-wide restriction to ban the use of lead gunshot in wetlands with an overwhelming 90 per cent majority in early September.

This brings the EU and its Member States one step closer to fulfilling their international legal obligations with respect to banning the use of lead gunshot in wetlands under the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA). These obligations have been in place ever since the Agreement came into force in 1999. At the Member State level, regulation has been patchy, absent and/or poorly enforced to date, resulting in lead often persisting as a material of choice for use in ammunition in and around wetlands. This proposal to eliminate the use of lead gunshot under REACH will harmonize policies across all EU Member States.

This restriction will halt the unnecessary death of an estimated one million waterbirds, that fall victim every year to lead poisoning after consuming spent shot mistaking it for food or the grit that they need for their gizzards. It will also diminish the death of predatory and scavenging birds, which are poisoned by either consuming contaminated birds or eating the pellets of lead shot embedded in their prey.

Additional wider positive effects will include an increased abundance in waterbirds providing ecosystem services including more quarry for hunters. The restriction will also reduce risks to the health of people consuming game shot in and around wetlands, including hunters, their families, as well as other consumers of wild game. It will also improve the general health of the environment after stopping the contamination by the accumulation of hundreds of tonnes of lead shot deposited in wetlands annually.

There are still some final hurdles to clear before the restriction becomes reality, including approval by the European Council and the European Parliament.  The approval of both bodies is being sought this autumn. 

Given that the elimination of lead from the environment has been a goal of the Agreement since its inception, the AEWA Secretariat congratulates the Commission, the European Chemicals Agency and the EU Member States for having taken this extremely important step for the environment and strongly encourages other EU institutions to follow suit and consign lead gunshot in wetlands to history.


Last updated on 23 September 2020

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