Episode 88: Rewilding Scotland with Peter Cairns

Peter Cairns is the executive director of the environmental charity Scotland: The Big Picture, the first organisation in Scotland wholly dedicated to championing rewilding. We started our conversation by discussing the controversy surrounding the term rewilding. Since rewilding (for want of a better, less controversial, term) is of great interest to me, the discussion started to flow from there.

After that, we discussed a wide range of related socio-economic and environmental issues. Finally, we ended up examining individual species that had been extirpated. Some of them, like beavers, have since been reintroduced. Others, like lynx, could be reintroduced in the future. And wolves… yes we talked about wolves too. But don’t worry, this conversation wasn’t about some fantasies. I feel like we had a very reasonable and balanced discussion. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Episode 87: Irish Whale and Dolphin Group with Pádraig Whooley

I have wanted to record an episode about the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) and their work for quite a while now. Their excellent website, with a database where you can report sightings and strandings, was even mentioned in one of my vlogs. So today, it is my pleasure to bring you my conversation with IWDG’s Sightings Officer Pádraig Whooley.

We started with discussing at length IWDG origins and their current work. After that, we dug deep into a whole host of interesting topics related to cetaceans, starting with a discussion about cetacean species that can be observed and encountered in our local waters. That conversation included some interesting facts about how to behave in the presence of a whale and about the rules and regulations around it. We discussed whale watching techniques and the required equipment. We also talked about the unpleasant issue of whale strandings. And of course, I did not forget to discuss cetacean evolution, a personal favourite of mine.

This is an amazing episode and if you have any level of interest in whales or dolphins you will, without a doubt, find it deeply interesting.

Episode 84: Basking Sharks with Natasha Phillips and Amy Garbett

In this episode, I had the pleasure to talk once again with scientists from SeaMonitor project. This time our guests were Dr Natasha Phillips and Dr Amy Garbett. Our conversation was focused on Basking Sharks but while at it we discussed a whole range of other subjects as well, like genetic connectivity, biotelemetry and bioinformatics. There is nothing like a conversation with scientists who are genuinely passionate about their work. If you are interested in marine biology, sharks and science you can’t afford to miss this episode!

Episode 83: Tracking Seals with Sam L Cox

This is yet another episode of the podcast where we talk about seals. This time I hit you with a healthy dose of unbiased, evidence-based knowledge. Actually, that’s not me doing the hitting but our guest Dr Sam L Cox who is a quantitative ecologist and researcher for the SeaMonitor project. In our conversation, we discuss the behaviour and spatial ecology of harbour seals which are tracked using GPS tags glued to their head. But that’s not all, Sam has done a lot of research studying other, more exotic, species of seals, like elephant seals. So, we discuss that too! We also touch on the anthropogenic impact on seals and mobile marine predators in general. This is one interesting episode. Enjoy!

Episode 79: SeaMonitor and Ocean Tracking Network with Ross McGill and Fred Whoriskey

On Tommy’s Outdoors, we spend a lot of time talking about fish tagging programs and various types of research supported by them. But our guests today are taking this concept to an entirely new level. They are Ross McGill, the Principal Project Officer for SeaMonitor at Loughs Agency and Dr Fred Whoriskey, the Executive Director at Ocean Tracking Network.

If research and monitoring of marine wildlife and the environment is your cup of tea you will be delighted to hear from these two gentlemen. During the podcast, we talk about the SeaMonitor project itself as well as the technology used in the research, from Bluetooth enabled GPS tags all the way to autonomous submarines and seagoing drones.

Episode 78: Human-Seal Conflict with Liam Flannery and Dan Brosnan

In episode 72 we started a discussion about seals in Ireland. As you might remember, at the time, I said that we wouldn’t get into the subject of human-seal conflict in that episode, as this is a complex subject that requires its own discussion.

Since then, I’ve wanted to cover it from all angles but it has been difficult to find people willing to talk about it on record. Clearly, there are a lot of emotions surrounding this issue.

Then, one day, I received a call from Dan Brosnan, who is a friend of the podcast and was our guest on one of the previous episodes. Dan got in touch with a young fisherman, Liam Flannery, who is trying his hardest to raise awareness about the problems that seals are causing for local fishermen. Before long we got all mic’d up and recorded this episode.

Obviously, we didn’t cover everything on this topic. So, if you have an opinion that you would like to share, please leave a comment. Better still, contact me directly and we’ll keep this discussion going.

Angling for Critically Endangered Fish

My good fishing buddy posted some photos from his two-day boat fishing trip. One of the typical grip-and-grin photos showed him with the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus). This made me envious. As a compulsive-obsessive shark angler, I chased these sharks for many years. I was only successful once and the specimen I caught was very young and rather small. To me, it didn’t really count. So this species of sharks is still on my to-do, or more precisely, my to-catch list. 

But here lies the issue and the reason why it is such a big deal to catch one of these sharks. After long years of exploitation and unregulated fishing their population collapsed. Now they are incredibly scarce and, although in recent years there seems to be an increase in catches and sightings, it isn’t clear if it is an indication of a recovering population or just a shift in distribution. Regardless, they are still firmly listed as critically endangered in the Northeast Atlantic where most of our angling activities take place. This obviously poses some problems and rather uncomfortable questions. 

Those of you who are following me might even remember that just a few days before my friend’s fishing trip, an officer of one of the environmental NGOs expressed his irritation after another angler posted a video of himself landing a skate. Another species of critically endangered fish. That sparked an interesting discussion related to scientific tagging programmes that, by their very nature, require these rare and endangered fish to be caught, boated, tagged and then released.

In this blog, it is not my intention to defend or condemn anyone’s position. As always these situations are complex and there are many factors to consider. For example, is there a landing platform, how quickly is the fish unhooked, and how promptly is it returned to the water? They almost have to be taken on a case by case basis. Instead, I want to share some of my thoughts. I started to ask myself what I would do in my friend’s shoes. Would I pose for a grip-and-grin photo and point out the benefits of a tagging programme? Likely. Would I point fingers at past exploitation by commercial fishermen and contrast it with the negligible impact that anglers have on the shark population? Probably. I have done all of the above before.

Unfortunately, we have to face up to the reality that without changes in the current status-quo, we either run out of fish to catch, some species sooner than others, or we run out of the fish species we are allowed to catch. Most of us anglers talk a lot about the conservation of fish stocks. But do we have the guts to put our money where our mouth is? We talk a lot about fish welfare and the importance of catch & release. But do we have the resolve to not target certain species of fish, even if it’s legal? And would it even matter? Perhaps, the loss of some species is inevitable and the only approach that makes sense is, catch them while you can. Because soon enough they’ll be gone. Forever.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section down below or on one of my social media pages.

Episode 76: The True Green Alliance with Ron Thomson

Ron Thomson should be well known to anyone interested in wildlife management on the African continent. He started his career as a game ranger in 1959. Throughout his career, he has worked in Africa’s biggest and most prestigious game reserves. He has published fourteen books and we can safely say that he is one of the most experienced African big game hunters alive today.

Ron is also the CEO of The True Green Alliance whose vision is to create a global society that is properly informed about the principles and practices of wildlife management. During our conversation, we discuss the realities of wildlife management focusing particularly on elephant population management and current problems with it. These problems include overpopulation in some areas and a negative impact on the habitat and on other species of wildlife. 

We also talk about what an elephant cull operation looks like and finish with a few words about eating elephant meat.

Episode 75: Rewilding Ireland with David Smyth

This is yet another episode where my guest and I take on the subject of rewilding. This time our guest is the host of the discussion platform called Rewilding Ireland

During the podcast, we talk in length about various aspects of rewilding but we also talk about the future of the Rewilding Ireland platform. And towards the end of the podcast, we spend some time discussing whether or not megafauna should be a part of our rewilding efforts.