With so much fish available off the coasts why did people starve during the Great Famine of 1845 - 1850?

The Irish fishing fleet was very small at that time and was particularly undeveloped on the west coast. Where there were boats they tended to be small open rowing boats, which could not easily take to sea in the often rough conditions. The amount of people that benefited from fishing at this time was therefore comparatively small.

Did local people catch and eat such delicacies as lobster and oysters?

Not very much. The lobster fishery was not developed until the late 19th Century and then, as now, was aimed at export to London and Paris. The oyster fishery was similarly oriented and soon led to depletion of many oyster beds.

What were the main types of traditional fishing techniques at sea?

The small boats, like currachs, that were traditionally engaged in fishing preferred line fishing to netting. Sometimes long lines, ‘spillets’ were used, which could be hundreds of metres long. Small boats engaged in pot fishing for lobster too. Larger boats could better accommodate nets. Some nets were left to drift at sea, others used to trap shoals in a purse. Trawling was mainly developed by large powered boats.

Were firearms used much for hunting in Ireland?

Shotguns were the main firearm used for hunting. It was generally difficult to obtain a licence for anything else.

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