Episode 96: Blue Sharks with Simon Thomas

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My podcast listeners have heard, more than once, that there was a time when I was absolutely crazy about shark fishing. Among the many species of sharks present in my local waters, blue sharks (prionace glauca) have a special place in the hearts of sea anglers. These sharks are still relatively abundant and provide an opportunity to get a taste of true Big Game fishing without having to go on an expensive fishing holiday.

We already touched briefly on shark fishing during podcast number 41 with my friend, and a man with whom I did most of my shark fishing, Luke Aston. Today, however, we’re going all-in on blue shark fishing. Our guest is Dr Simon Thomas who is not only an expert angler but also works tirelessly on analysing scientific data related to blue sharks.

If you’re interested in marine biology or sharks or you’re just an angler who wants to learn more about shark-catching techniques, you will find this episode mighty interesting. No doubt!

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 52: Angling Trust with David Mitchell

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We have spoken many times about the need for advocacy for hunters and anglers, strong organizations that would represent sportsmen’s interests. Angling Trust is one such organization. Its aim is to represent anglers from England and Wales. Our guest is Dave Mitchell who is Angling Trust’s Head of Marine. He is also a board member of the European Anglers Alliance. In the podcast, I talk with Dave about angling advocacy, the state of the marine environment and the challenges faced by the angling community. If you are an angler, this one is worth listening to, even if you don’t live in England or Wales.

Episode 41: Fish and Stay with Luke Aston

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This episode of the podcast is especially close to my heart as our guest is my friend and seasoned charter skipper, Luke Aston. I have spent many hours at sea on a purpose-built, first-class sea angling boat, Clare Dragoon, skippered by Luke and operated by Carrigaholt Sea Angling Centre. If that sparks your interest then, just after listening to the podcast, you should visit Fish and Stay website, where you can book not only a sea fishing trip with Luke but also a whole holiday package that includes meals and accommodation. One thing is for sure when it comes to sea angling, it doesn’t get any better than this.