Illegal to possess lead shot within 100m of a wetland in 2023

On Thursday 3rd September 2020 the EU Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Committee approved a proposal to ban lead shot over wetlands, within 2 years. This proposal was then ratified by the EU Council making the proposal an EU law. Once ratified, the regulation came into force and the 2 year transition began.

CAI lobbied against the EU proposals, along with other stakeholders across Europe. However we must be clear, while this is unpopular for many reasons the European Union have voted on the matter meaning every EU Country and Northern Ireland (due to the protocol) must bring in these restrictions.

Art 5.4 of the ‘Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland’ included in the EU-UK agreement stipulates that the ‘provisions of Union law listed in Annex 2 to this Protocol shall also apply, under the conditions set out in that Annex, to and in the United Kingdom in respect of Northern Ireland’ (emphasis added). Point 23 of Annex 2 includes REACH.

The new regulations that come into force in Febuary 2023 in part were brought in as several EU Countries had no restrictions around the use of lead shot within wetlands and in others there was simply no enforcement measures being taken. In addition, the EU have an ambition, to remove lead from a range of products, such as in paint for example, and it is their aspiration to announce a full phase out of all lead ammunition around 2028.

Even though Northern Ireland brought in restrictions in 2009, due to the Protocol NI along with the other EU Countries must also comply with the additional requirements from the EU, namely the 100m buffer zone. This was confirmed by Minister Lyons from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs after CAI had written to him in January 2021 to find out what implications this may have on our current legislation.

Military and other non-civilian uses of lead ammunition – such as by police, security and customs forces – are not included.

The 100m buffer makes it illegal even to carry lead shot within 100m of a wetland and if caught the burden of proof is placed on the defendant to satisfy the court they had not discharged lead shot, nor was it thier intention to do so.

This law passed by the EU in 2021 is the bluntest measure that could be used. A directive would have allowed some flexibility within member states but as this is EU Law all members must comply and implement.

It affects every form of shooting and for example in an extreme case if you drive along the M1 from Lisburn to Dungannon with your gun and lead ammunition in the boot of your car as you cross the River Bann you could technically be breaking the law.

The new Law also allows member States to ban the sale of lead shot and its discharge entirely if they wished. However, CAI are not aware of any country that has opted for this option.

While wildfowlers will be most up to speed with the use of lead alternatives, CAI would call on the whole shooting community to start exploring the alternatives to lead shot, such as steel, or bismuth and check if your firearm can be used with these types of ammunition. As always if you are in doubt contact your Firearms Dealer, the firearms maker, or importer for example Beretta are imported by GMK.

A copy of the regulations in NI can be found here 

What if Article 16 was implemented.

In Northern Ireland should Article 16 be triggered then it is likely NI would fall into line with the rest of the UK who are currently going through a voluntary phase out of lead shot within 5 years, which started in 2020. However, both UK REACH and the Health and Safety Executive are working to a total phase out of lead ammunition on a similar timeline to the EU.

The CA response to the HSE consultation can be found here

As Northern Ireland or indeed the rest of the UK no longer have any voting rights in Europe, CAI continue to work with partners such as National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC), Irish Farmers Association Countryside (IFA) in the Republic of Ireland, and directly with the European Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FACE) in Europe along with FACE UK and FACE Ireland to have your voice heard.


Other articles on lead shot

Lead Ammunition and ECHA update

Phasing out of lead shot over wetlands unworkable

EU vote to ban lead shot over wetlands

Lead ammunition update and NI Protocol

CAI attend ROI forum on the introduction of restriction on lead shot

FACE EU articles

ECHA’s scientific committees support limiting lead use for outdoor shooting and fishing

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