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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A few weeks ago Inland Fisheries Ireland distributed an online survey through social media, looking to gather information from all Irish sea anglers. The survey was part of a new programme called the Irish Marine Recreational Sea Angling Survey or IMREC for short. IMREC’s aim is to show how fishing activities relate to stock levels. The collected data can improve the management of fish stocks and hopefully preserve them for future generations.
Since this is an area of great interest not only to me but also to all sea anglers, I contacted Diarmuid Ryan, the program manager for IMREC, and invited him to the podcast. Diarmuid kindly accepted the invitation and today I am bringing you our conversation.
Out of all the topics we discussed, we probably spent a disproportionate amount of time talking about bass angling with lures. But I’m not going to apologize for that! Even if you’re not into lure bass fishing, in this episode you will find plenty of interesting and important information.
Is it possible to use artificial intelligence to tell us how rewilding will look in any area where it is implemented? Is it possible to create a computer model that would tell us how the species eradicated from the landscape hundreds of years ago would behave when reintroduced? Listen to my conversation with Kilian Murphy where we talk about such models.
During the podcast we discuss the possibility of reintroducing wolves and wild boars to Ireland, and the difference in perception of rewilding between city-dwellers and farmers. We also touch on the role hunters have to play in rewilding projects and discuss the dynamics and density of the deer population in Ireland.
In this episode, I talk with Mel Robinson who is the Director Of Animal Care for Seal Rescue Ireland. While listening to this episode you can learn what Seal Rescue Ireland is, how and why they are helping seals, as well as a few rather interesting facts about seals.
In the podcast, we purposely did not delve into the issue of human-seal conflict. To me, it is a complex and interesting problem and I feel like it deserves to be discussed separately.