Working the Waterfront

Adams & Knickle, one of Nova Scotia’s leading fisheries, has been growing with its community since 1897

Chockle Cap launched in 1986 and is currently the last wooden scallop dragger sailing out of Lunenburg.

Today, the bright-red buildings of Adams & Knickle are a historic part of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia’s working waterfront. The company has been fishing out of the famous port for 114 years. In the early years, the company was an exporter of salt fish, and presently it fishes for deep-sea scallops. The challenges of operating a fishing business have not always been easy, but the company has weathered the storms and has grown to be a community staple.

Founded in 1897 by Harry W. Adams and captain Alexander Knickle, the company quickly established its niche in the booming salt-fish trade. By 1940, many two-masted schooners sailed out of Lunenburg harbour, 20 of which were operated by Adams & Knickle. Duringthese years, descendents of Harry and Alexander had joined the firm. Today, the company is in its third generation of ownership, with Jane Ritcey, the granddaughter of Harry Adams, serving as president. Jane is joined by David Knickle, general manager, who is the great-grandson of Alexander. For Jane, the tradition that the company now enjoys is a result of the hard work of both families and the strong work ethic of its employees. “In today’s world, it is unique to be a part an old fishing company like Adams & Knickle,” Ritcey says.

During the early ’50s, the salt-fish trade began to dwindle, and a new scallop fishery emerged. In 1954, Adams & Knickle purchased Lunenburg’s first deep-sea scallop dragger, the Barbara Jo, and within the next five years, the company launched eight more wooden scallop vessels. By 1962, the offshore fleet had grown to 44 vessels, and to 77 by 1980. These were lucrative years in the fishing industry, but soon the scallop fleet had to be downsized for the fishery to be sustainable. “Over the years, we’ve been able to make the necessary changesto remain competitive, and therefore, we have been able to stay in business,” Ritcey says.

Today, the challenges of the fishing industry are about conservation, sustainability, and good management. In March of 2010, the Eastern Canada offshore sea-scallop fishery was the first North American scallop fishery to attain certification as a sustainable, well-managed fishery. Adams & Knickle, along with four other deep-sea-scallop fishing companies have earned this distinction from the Marine Stewardship Council.

What makes the company’s success even more striking is that it is one of very few female-run fishing firms. For generations, the fishing industry had typically been dominated by men—fathers passing on their jobs to their sons and their grandsons. “When I arrived at the company office, I’m sure many thought having a woman at the helm was unheard of,” Ritcey says. “Fortunately, my uncles who preceded me often spoke about the business, so I understood from a young age how important Adams & Knickle is to our family and to the community.”

At the end of the day, Adams & Knickle is proud of exactly that. “Our greatest accomplishment is that we have been a part of Lunenburg’s historic working waterfront for over a century and, in doing so, have played an important role in our community,” Ritcey says. “Our fishermen have helped make us who we are today.”