In 2015, the European Commission (EC) requested the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to prepare a restriction on lead shot over wetlands in Europe. On 17 August 2018, ECHA’s proposal was sent to the EC (see report here with this annex). The EC has been preparing its proposal since then, which will first involve consultation (in 2019) with the EU REACH Committee (i.e. Member State representatives), where Governments have an opportunity to provide their views. Then, it will need final approval by the European Parliament and the Council (EU Governments).
Although FACE supports phasing out the use of lead shot over wetlands (with formal positions in 2004 and 2010) and 24 out of 28 EU countries have already done so, FACE expressed multiple concerns during the ECHA public consultations. While some issues were clarified, problems remain including ECHA’s proposal to keep a very broad definition of a wetland (i.e. Ramsar) to include peatlands, defined as: “areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres”.
This EU regulation (following the EC’s principles of Better Regulation) should be targeted at wetlands containing visible water as the risks to waterbirds from lead shot ingestion primarily occur in such areas and not over e.g. dry peatland habitats. Further, the inclusion of peatlands will make the restriction very unclear to both hunters and enforcement officers e.g. on what constitutes a peatland habitat and where such habitats/areas begin and end.
ECHA’s opinion also recommends banning the ‘possession’ of lead shot while hunting over wetlands. This regulation should not cause hunters to be liable for prosecution for being in possession of lead shot over wetlands. Most hunters cross wetlands at some point on a typical day’s game hunting with a shotgun in Europe. The current proposal remains very unclear and additional clarity is needed to ensure that the ban on ‘possession’ only relates to discharging a shot from a shotgun over wetlands.
This is set to become an EU regulation sometime in 2021/2022 with a ‘phase out’ period.