For generations when one thought of Lunenburg they thought of a fishing town. Not a fishing town dotted with small crafts, but a port populated with large offshore vessels. A town that once boasted as the fishing capital of Canada.
Lunenburg, then called E’se’katik, meaning ‘place of clams’, was fished by Mi’kmaq for centuries. In 1753, the arrival of colonial settlers changed the landscape, bringing farmers, not fishers. Finding themselves in a coastal area, some turned to the sea for a livelihood.
Besides a moderate subsistence inshore fishery, the port of Lunenburg had a fleet of roughly ten fishing vessels which participated in the Labrador fishery. Each vessel left in early June with approximately ten crew. Upon arrival, the first task was to set out seine nets for bait. The method of fishing entailed a single, baited, hook and line fished from a smaller whale boat. This was a very labour-intensive fishery.
But that all changed after an experimental fishing trip by Captain Benjamin Anderson. He envisioned a method of longline double dory fishing, believing it far more lucrative and much less laborious, and in 1873, on a trip to Western Bank aboard Dielytris, he gambled on that vision. Captain Anderson knew his crew were taking a risk, so he guaranteed them the equivalent earnings of a Labrador trip.
Captain Anderson and his crew returned to Lunenburg with a boat load of fish; the gamble paid off! In 1874, four other schooners joined Captain Anderson and his crew in this way of fishing. 1875 saw ten schooners, 1888 sixty, and by the turn of the century over one hundred schooners were using this method. All of this happened due to the determination, ingenuity, and skill of Captain Benjamin Anderson and his crew – bravo!
Curator of Interpretation: Hilda Russell
Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic