ALBERTON -- There might have been more ice in the Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence this past winter than at any time in the past two decades, but one would hardly know it now.
Paul Veber, the Canadian Coast Guard’s Superintendent of Ice Operations for the Atlantic Region, said Thursday the ice is quickly dissipating.
Satellite radar imagery on Thursday, he said, showed dramatic improvement in ice conditions from early in the week.
“I would say, by early next week there’s going to be very little, if any, ice left in the Gulf.” Veber qualified that by saying there would still be ice in some harbours and ports. “That seems to be where the heaviest ice is lingering, currently.”
His assessment should prove reassuring to fishermen wondering whether the spring lobster fishery would start on time
Veber acknowledged the region has just gone through an unusual winter.
“We saw an early start to the winter; we saw prolonged periods of very cold temperatures with little wind, and that caused the ice to thicken up quickly,” he reported.
“When we compare it to the past, you know, it’s been a couple of decades since we’ve seen a winter of this nature.”
Veber reported a “bumper crop” of iceberg well south this year. He said sea ice extended further south this year and it was compacted, protecting the large chunks of ice from sea action.
Whereas heavy demand for ice-breaker service does not usually hit until early to mid-February, Veber said the ice-breakers have been going steady since late December.
There are currently five icebreakers working in the Atlantic region, two off of Newfoundland and three in the Gulf. Two of those are helping to keep ferries moving and one is working on clearing out ice from shipping ports. A hovercraft is expected to arrive from Quebec this weekend to aid in flood control in the Rustigouche River and to help clear ice from ports in the area that are too shallow for the ice breakers to enter.
He said commercial shipping has been moving freely through the Northumberland Strait all week.
He said there is still some ice in the Hillsborough Bay area but it’s thinning quickly.