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.

Episode 72: Seal Rescue Ireland with Mel Robinson

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.

Episode 66: African Wildlife Conservation with Adam Hart

The issue of African wildlife conservation is very complex and difficult. There are many factors that have to be considered, some of them are literally a matter of life and death. All that immersed in a highly emotional atmosphere. This subject is infinitely interesting to me. So, today I am delighted to bring you my conversation with biologist, broadcaster, academic and author, Professor Adam Hart. During the podcast, we discuss the elephant situation in Botswana, the role of rural communities in wildlife management and the highly emotional subject of trophy hunting.

I have a killer podcast for you

This week on Tommy’s Outdoors was a little quiet, but not because of the unfolding situation with COVID-19. It was due to some high priority work that I’m involved with. You can read more about it in my housekeeping blog from the beginning of the year. But worry not, as per the usual schedule, next week I have a killer podcast for you. It’s going to be about nature, conservation and hunting. But it’s not going to be the usual “hunting is conservation” mantra, coming from someone with a lot of pictures of dead stuff on his Instagram page. So don’t forget to tune in. In fact, the best you can do is subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already! It is available on all podcast platforms and on YouTube.

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Episode 62: Whittled Away, a Photography Series, with Patrick Cross

We have talked about the book “Whittled Away – Ireland’s Vanishing Nature” twice already. In episode 20 our guest was the author, Pádraic Fogarty, who was also featured in episode 35 where I brought you the recording of his talk under the same title as the book.

Today I talk with Patrick Cross about his photographic project based on that book. We also talk about photography (the outdoors flavour), human impact on the environment and natural history.