No relief in view for Twillingate fishermen

Pack ice preventing boats from exiting harbour

Published on April 21, 2017

Fish harvesters in Twillingate are grounded due to pack ice built up in the harbour. The Fish, Food and Allied Workers union is calling on the federal government to provide compensation to harvesters.

©Patrick Murphy/The Pilot

TWILLINGATE, NL - A small and temporary gap in pack ice allowed a few Twillingate fishing boats to slip into open water early Thursday morning.

“Right now, some of the bigger boats squeezed out through” local fisherman Dave Boyd told the Pilot Thursday evening. “So they're gone outside the ice.” 

Kilometres of pack ice has built up just outside the harbour in the rural fishing community. The situation is preventing some local fish harvesters from accessing crab fishing grounds. 

Any relief local harvesters found watching the boats go out was, much like gap in the ice, fleeting according to Boyd. More ice is on the way and, with the fishery expected to open April 24, harvesters are growing concerned.

“The inshore (fishery) here was scheduled to open on the 17th, but it was delayed now to the 24th,” Boyd said. “So, I don’t know what DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) will do now tomorrow, they might say they will open it Monday.” 

Boyd says the ice flow charts on the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change website show massive ice flows moving towards the community. 

“Oh man, it’s amazing what ice is coming up there, the Green Bay is full, the White Bay is full, all down the northern peninsula…,” Boyd said. “We’re all surrounded, it must be 140 miles wide to the northeast of St. Anthony.” 

In a news release issued April 19, The Fish, Food and Allied Workers union (FFAW) said hundreds of harvesters are being kept ashore by ice built up around Newfoundland and Labrador. Union President Keith Sullivan is calling on the federal government to pay compensation to any fish harvesters grounded by the pack ice.

In 2007, the federal government established a $7.9 million ice compensation package, according to an archived July 21, 2007 press release on the Government of Canada website. At the time the federal government emphasized the program was not an extension of EI benefits, but government had designated special funds to respond to an “extraordinary situation.” 

“The persistent ice in some areas of the province will cause hardship for many families, and the government must step-up to assist these people as conditions are expected to persist for the next several weeks,” Sullivan stated in the release.

The release echoed the statements made by Boyd, saying, “the long-range forecast is calling for northeast winds, causing ice will (sic) remain there until strong offshore winds push the ice back out. This could take several weeks to resolve.” 

The Pilot was unable to reach the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for comment.