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 74: Marine Recreational Angling with Diarmuid Ryan

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.

Lockdown Fishing

Like most of you I feel the impact of the covid pandemic. Outdoor pursuits are among the impacted activities. Even though many of them could be considered the original forms of social distancing. Obviously any travel, even very near, is off the table. Luckily for me I have access to a beautiful coastal area just a few hundred meters outside my front door. That of course means that angling is my daily exercise of choice. 

I know a few tried fishing marks in this area. Under normal circumstances, I don’t usually fish them. Ironically, I used to when I lived in the nearby town and had to drive half an hour to reach them. That made me think about how often we overlook what’s within our reach and instead opt for some “better”, more inaccessible, locations for our activities. It’s like the old angling saying, “The biggest perch are always closer to the opposite bank”. Does that sound familiar?

How often does the lockdown force us to discover or rediscover outdoor gems that we overlooked because they are so close and familiar that they seem bland and boring? In any case, I intend to make the best of what I have and, who knows, maybe catch an unexpected specimen fish!

Episode 70: Field Sports with Matt Cross

As regular listeners to the podcast might remember, in episode 47 we hosted Matt Cross, a field sports journalist, writer and blogger. At that time, we talked about yet another unlawful killing of a hen harrier. That episode was specifically focused on the issue of raptor persecution and we didn’t have a chance to tap into Matt’s vast knowledge about field sports.

Today we’re going to fix that as we discuss a number of topics including grouse moors management, rewilding, the ethics of field sports, the difference between the terms “shooting” and “hunting” in the UK context, and the move away from using lead in shooting. I’m sure you will enjoy our conversation.

Episode 67: World Sport Fishing with Richard Sheard

I had the pleasure to fish with Richard a number of years ago on the waters of Bjagos Islands archipelago in Guinea Bissau. That is without a doubt one of the highlights of my angling career. 

Richard runs World Sport Fishing, a fishing and shooting holiday outfit. So if you are after a bucket list angling experience, definitely check out their website or simply give them a call!

I probably waited way too long to invite Richard to the podcast. But today, we finally sat down and had a chat about fulfilling your sport-fishing dreams.

Episode 58: Shore Fishing in Norway with Irish Angling Adventures

James is a fellow blogger and vlogger on Irish Angling Adventures. We had the pleasure to host him on episode 42. The second part of that podcast was dedicated to his trip to the Norwegian island of Vega. We finished that podcast with James’s plans to come back to this excellent fishing spot. Not long ago he and his fishing buddies came back from their second trip to Vega island. That right there should tell you exactly what this episode is about.