Many of our freshwater fish are also introductions. In the Middle Ages, several continental monastic orders established themselves in Ireland. The monks were skilful fish farmers because they observed a large number of fast days during the year when they were not allowed to eat meat. They also ate a much larger variety of freshwater fish than are normally eaten in Ireland today. They brought new fish species with them from the continent and some of these eventually escaped from their farm ponds and fish like tench and bream were introduced into the country.
Then, in 1889, an Englishman travelled to Ireland for a pike angling holiday on the River Blackwater on the Cork/Waterford border. He brought with him a container of small, live fish that he had caught in England and which he intended to use as bait for the pike. At the end of his holiday he hadn’t used them all up so he tipped the remainder into the river. This introduced two new species to Ireland, the roach and the dace. For a long time they were confined to the Blackwater but both have now spread into other river systems.
In the early years of this century another new species, the chub, was found in the River Inny, a tributary of the Shannon. It’s believed they were deliberately and illegally introduced by anglers looking for a new quarry.
When we’re thinking about the roach and the dace and the many other species of animal and plant, that were introduced into this country from Britain in the nineteenth century, we have to realise that the people who did the introductions didn’t realise the seriousness of what they were doing because the Act of Union was in place. Ireland was part of the United Kingdom then, and many English people did not consider it a foreign country.
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