Sportsmen and Ecologists

While recording episodes of the podcast I get to meet and speak with people involved in the outdoors. Most of them are interested in the use and preservation of the natural environment. Among those people two distinct groups stand out the most: sportsmen, most often represented by hunters and anglers, and ecologists as in conservationists and environmentalists. In theory, they should represent one consistent front for protection of the natural environment. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Oftentimes representatives of these groups are involved in a counterproductive confrontation with each other. So, let’s dive into this issue and try to understand some of the reasons why this is happening.

For starters, let’s look at the common ground they share. Genuine ecologists are usually research scientists or employees of governmental or non-governmental bodies involved in the protection and management of natural resources. Of course we all know there are self proclaimed, shouty types, but I’m not going to talk about them here. Whenever I have an opportunity to talk to environmentalists I always ask the question, “Do you see sportsmen as allies in the efforts to protect the environment or as adversaries?” Based on the responses so far, I gather that sportsmen are mostly recognized as important stakeholders. Ecologists also recognize that they are an invaluable source of information about the state of the environment. It is because hunters and anglers spent lots of time in the outdoors and have an opportunity to observe nature and the changes it undergoes over time. They are often referred to as the boots on the ground.

Sportsmen also recognize the important role of ecologists as a source of information about wildlife and the environment. They also recognize that ecologists work to protect the resources they interact with. Wild game and fish. And here is where the tension starts. Ecologists often feel that sportsmen repeatedly engage in practices aimed mainly at their own interest, to the detriment of conservation. For example, when engaging in catch and release, they place more importance on taking a trophy photo with the fish over promptly releasing it back to the water. On the flip side, on many occasions sportsmen consider some of the regulations as limiting their activities unnecessarily.

It is not my intention to judge which side is right. Each case is different and everybody makes mistakes. Unfortunately, as the result of these tensions, the opportunity to create a combined, strong and environmentally minded front is lost. Sportsmen are often reluctant to engage in conservation initiatives worried that their interest won’t be recognized and they will find themselves on the wrong side of the equation. On the other hand, ecologists are reluctant to reach out to sportsmen for support, being afraid of a backlash.

It is my strong belief that true hunters and anglers are also environmentalists and conservationists. It is in their own interest, after all, that the waters are full of fish and the woods are full of wild game. In fact, there are many people who belong to both groups. It is not unheard of for a game and wildlife officer to also be an avid hunter or angler. These days, the natural environment is under more pressure from human activity than ever before. Only combined efforts to protect it can be successful. Sportsmen, ecologists, environmentalists and anybody else to whom nature is dear, should pull together. They should bury the discord about the way they intend to use it, and work together to protect it. Otherwise there will be nothing left to use anyway.

Episode 17: Sea Synergy with Eleanor Turner


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This episode is for all of you who love the sea and especially the coast. My guest, Eleanor Turner works at Sea Synergy Marine Awareness Centre in Waterville, whose mission is: “To create meaningful experiences in nature for individuals or groups tailored to their needs that enable them to discover the rich diversity of Ireland’s environment and Wild Atlantic Way in a fun and memorable way.” Sounds like the outdoors to me!
In this episode we talk about various species of fish, sharks, rays and marine mammals as well as some conservation issues like overfishing and microplastics. In addition, we discuss some activities which can be experienced on the Irish coast. Let’s just say that an underwater safari is one of them! This is a very informative episode in which Ellie shares a ton of great and interesting knowledge.

Interview for GCR Digital Radio


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This week, instead of the usual blog post I would like to share with all my listeners and subscribers an interview I gave two months ago. I was interviewed by Ben Kelly from the Wicklow Hour tweetchat for GCR Digital Radio. During our chat, I had an opportunity to talk about Tommy’s Outdoors podcast. I answered several questions ranging from how it all got started to who can be my guest. We also briefly touched on some topics that were discussed in previous episodes of the podcast.

Tommy’s Outdoors on Carrie Zylka’s Hunt Fish Travel Podcast

It’s shark week! And it is no secret that I have a pretty intense, brief history as a shark angler. Some evidence of that can be found in the gallery and video sections on this website. So, I was stoked to be invited to the shark week edition of Carrie Zylka’s Hunt Fish Travel podcast. Go ahead and listen to Carrie and me talking about shark fishing in Ireland, shark tagging programs and shark conservation issues. Of course as a long standing member of The Shark Trust I couldn’t fail to mention this respectable charity which does so much great work for shark conservation.

Episode 16: Cycling across Continents with Tomás Mac an t-Saoir


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Experience of the outdoors quite often involves adventure. My guest today is taking adventure to the next level. Tomás Mac an t-Saoir is a young man in his twenties who cycled 3000 miles across North America solo and unsupported. This year he is planning to one-up his achievement by embarking on a 12,000 km self-supported cycling trip down the length of Africa. The journey will start in Cairo, Egypt and end in Cape Town, South Africa. Tomás is cycling in aid of the Donal Walsh Live Life Foundation. Listen to what Tom has to say about his incredible adventures and please support his cause by donating to the Donal Walsh Live Life Foundation.

Cycling 101 – part 3 – Health Concerns

Welcome to part 3 of this blog series dedicated to getting started with cycling. In this instalment we are going to discuss the impact cycling has on health.

Cycling and health

As controversial as this sounds, in my opinion, cycling is not the greatest sport in relation to health benefits. Don’t get me wrong. It is a great way for people of all ages and abilities to be active and to spend time in the outdoors. However, it is also important to be aware of its possible negative effects.

Without a doubt one of the best known health benefits of cycling is the cultivation of cardiovascular capacity. Large muscle groups, like the quadriceps, get activated. That forces the heart and lungs to supply oxygen-rich blood to the working muscle tissues. That in turn has a positive impact on metabolism and triggers a series of beneficial hormonal responses. The mechanism described above increases energy expenditure, the burning of calories, which may help you lose weight.

Unfortunately, we often prefer to look only at the positives and not acknowledge the negatives. Cycling is not good for our posture. As a matter of fact, while cycling we are spending a substantial amount of time, often long hours, in a relatively static and unnatural position. While our legs are working hard, our torso and upper body remain almost motionless. In addition, our upper body is leaning forward, especially on road and racing bicycles. This puts a lot of pressure on our vertebrae, from L1 to S1. The more aerodynamically aggressive the position on the bike, the greater the pressure. This means that the condition known as sciatica or lower back pain is quite common among cyclists.

Now let’s talk about the upper body. When cycling hard we often tend to tense our shoulders, neck and jaw. It is known as “hugging the ears with the shoulders”. It is important to pay attention and keep the upper body relaxed. Failure to do so leads to neck and shoulder pain. Also the unnatural pressure on our cervical vertebrae can cause numbness in our hands and arms.

Finally, the saddle. Most cyclists recognize that prolonged time on the bicycle can result in a sore bottom. It’s commonly said that this discomfort is felt only for the first 1000 miles in the season. In reality, however, a saddle is the part of the bicycle that should be carefully chosen to match the cyclist’s body type and spacing between his or her sit bones. Failure to use the correct saddle results in damaging pressure applied to the soft tissue in the perineal area. This can lead to many serious conditions like numbness or erectile dysfunction.

Now let’s look at some simple measures to mitigate the potential problems described above. Firstly, I always say that riding a bicycle is not the best way to get in shape. Actually, you need to train and get in shape to ride a bicycle. While this statement might be an exaggeration there is more than just a grain of truth in it. It is especially important to develop a strong and flexible core. This muscle complex is of paramount importance for anatomical posture and support. A strong core will provide much needed support and stabilization for the spine. This in turn will prevent lower back pain, stabilize the torso and provide a stable platform that will help to relax the upper body.

Another important and often neglected step is to get a bike fit. It is often reduced to just setting the correct saddle height. That is insufficient. In order to enjoy riding your bicycle and to avoid injury you should get a professional bike fit. During the fitting, a professional will measure the position of your torso, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows and head, while in motion. Along with your saddle height, he or she will adjust the stem length, the handlebars position, pedal alignment and many other aspects of bicycle geometry to match your body type and fitness level. For example, more flexible riders with a strong core can assume a more aerodynamic but demanding position. Riders with a lower level of fitness should be positioned more upright. Choosing the right saddle is also one of the key steps during the bicycle fit process. Note, that this step might take a few attempts and some kilometers ridden before a suitable saddle will be selected. The bicycle fit should be repeated at least every couple of years as our bodies and fitness levels are changing. A cyclist with a relaxed upright position, after a few years of training, might be able to ride in a more demanding position as their strength and flexibility improves. On the flip side, with age, riders might need to relax their position on the bicycle in order to enjoy cycling for many years to come.

Check back for part 4 of Cycling 101 in a few weeks and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss the next blog post.

Episode 15: Tralee Equestrian Centre with Rachel Daly


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For many of us horseback riding is one of the best ways to experience the outdoors. In this episode, I talk with Rachel Daly from Tralee Equestrian Centre. You will learn how to get started if you are new to this activity. Rachel will walk you through various disciplines of equestrian sport. You will also hear about a number of horse breeds as well as some interesting facts about horse life. Finally, you will find out about the services Tralee Equestrian Centre offers. They range from one-day trekking trips under the watchful eye of a professional instructor to full livery services. Even if you are not into horseback riding this episode is worth listening to as it is very informative and could clarify a few misconceptions surrounding equestrianism.