The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) was developed under the UN Convention on Migratory Species. Ireland signed up to the Agreement in 2003. The agreement includes a commitment that “Parties shall endeavour to phase out the use of lead shot for hunting in wetlands as soon as possible in accordance with self-imposed and published timetables." This is because there is slow accumulation of lead from shot in wetlands where hunting occurs. The lead is generally harmful in the environment and can also be consumed by wildfowl which often swallow small pieces of hard materials such as gravel and the like, to assist the maceration of vegetable matter in their gizzard. My Department’s position is to support the AEWA commitment to phase out the use of lead shot over wetlands.
The European Commission have published an initial draft Regulation for consideration by Member States on the use of lead shot in wetlands following a report on the matter by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). It is my understanding that the proposal, should it ultimately progress into law, would make provision for a lead-in time to facilitate the making of arrangements to source alternatives to lead shot. It is Ireland's understanding the majority of Member States currently have some restrictions on the use of lead shot over wetlands.
The Department is aware that the ban on using lead in gunshot would provide a range of difficulties to transition to new guns/gunshot for many gun owners in Ireland, including farmers and hunters. In those Member States which do have some restrictions, many gun owners would already have guns with non-lead shot ammunition. This would not be the case in Ireland where a considerable number of gun owners would have to make alternative arrangements, in many cases to purchase new guns.
Discussions with the REACH Committee (which is within the remit of the ECHA), are ongoing. Ireland is represented on the Committee by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), and will be requesting a lead-in time of sufficient length for the implementation of the Regulation.