Pat “The Chief” O’Donnell is a fourth generation fisherman from North Mayo and Jim Knott, Jr. is a recreational lobsterman and the CEO of US-based Riverdale Mills. The two men could not be further apart in personality and family background but they are closely tethered by their passion for the lobster industry. “Generations of families pass on the tricks of the trade to their children. The business has changed but not the lobster,” said O’Donnell. Knott wholeheartedly agrees.

O’Donnell met Knott Jr. in 2012 and the two have since worked together to create some of the finest fishing pots in the world. The common thread tying together the pair’s work is a specialized wire mesh called Aquamesh made by Knott’s Riverdale Mills.

The history of Riverdale Mills is a story much akin to the legacy of the Irish fishermen: one of ingenuity, passion and perseverance. While fishing a handful of heavy wooden and twine lobster traps in the late 1950s, Riverdale Mills founder Jim Knott, Sr. thought, “There has to be a lighter and better trap.” So he designed the modern all-wire lobster trap. While most were hesitant to adopt the new design, those who did very quickly realized they were pulling in more lobsters per haul than with wooden traps. If the economics were convincing, the ergonomics sealed the deal. The wire traps were lighter out of the water (good for the lobsterman’s back), heavier in the water (so the trap stayed put), and lasted three to five times longer.

By 1980, Riverdale Mills Corporation was established and the company went on to improve on its original design by inventing Aquamesh, the only plastic coated wire mesh fabric in the world specifically engineered to withstand the harsh sea environment.

Both Knott and O’Donnell believe the success of their businesses is due to an unwavering commitment to pursue a vocation they see as a calling. Just as O’Donnell is well known for his unswerving dedication to the sea, Knott Jr. has spent decades working to perfect Riverdale’s signature product for fishing the seas.
Aquamesh is manufactured from high-grade premium steel that is hot-dip galvanized after welding with a thick layer of zinc that completely surrounds the weld to prevent the steel from corroding. The wire is then covered with a marine grade PVC produced by Riverdale Mills Corporation. The coating is fuse-bonded to the wire, forming a protective layer to maximize durability and prevent peeling, rust and corrosion. If zinc is applied to wire strands before they are welded together (GBW), the wire junctures lose their galvanized protection. When zinc is applied after welding (using GAW), traps typically last four to five times longer than traps made using the GBW process.
Sustainability is another ethic Pat and Jim both consider to be rooted in pragmatism and common sense. Pat’s daily work impacts the fishing industry in a different way. He is building the finest marine cages (with Knott’s Aquamesh) and catching the finest seafood while maintaining his commitment and leading the charge for the ecological sustainability of the fishing industry. Much like Knott, he shrugs off adversity in a good-natured fashion and views the ocean as a gift. “Planet Earth has five great oceans and 113 seas. They represent 72% of the surface of the globe, and have been an endless source of inspiration for me,” said O’Donnell. “We must respect our natural resources and continue to act purposefully and prudently to keep our fishing grounds clean and sustainable for future generations.”