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Packed ice still holding up crab fishing season

It was clear sailing at Northport Wharf in Alberton Harbour for the past week, but ice returned Tuesday night, filling the boat pond. Fishermen, however, were unconcerned, convinced the ice would move off with the next tide.
It was clear sailing at Northport Wharf in Alberton Harbour for the past week, but ice returned Tuesday night, filling the boat pond. Fishermen, however, were unconcerned, convinced the ice would move off with the next tide. - Eric McCarthy

Conditions improving naturally around P.E.I.

NORTHPORT

The Canadian Coast Guard still has about five to seven days of ice-breaking operations around New Brunswick’s Acadian Peninsula, the acting superintendent of Ice Operations Atlantic, Trevor Hodgson, reported Wednesday.

Ice had started its normal regression from the Gulf of St. Lawrence by early March but a few days of northeasterly winds in mid-March reversed that trend.

“It hit the Gulf pretty hard, he said.

“It essentially took all the ice that was in the Gulf and compacted it into three big piles,” he said of how it pushed the ice against Prince Edward Island’s north shore and some into the eastern and western entrances to the Northumberland Strait. Because the ice was so compressed by the pressure, it has taken longer for it to decompress and move out. He said that’s happening now and cargo ships have been able to make it into port in Summerside and Charlottetown without ice-breaker assistance.

A Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker cuts a path through the Northumberland Strait and under the Confederation Bridge in this aerial shot. Ice conditions around P.E.I. are improving by the day, but there is still considerable ice in Northern New Brunswick which is delaying the start of the snow crab fishery.
A Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, cuts a path through the Northumberland Strait and under the Confederation Bridge in this aerial shot taken from a Coast Guard Bell 429 helicopter. Ice conditions around P.E.I. are improving by the day, but there is still considerable ice in Northern New Brunswick which is delaying the start of the snow crab fishery.

While P.E.I. is now breaking free of winter’s grasp on its own, Hodgson said there still remains several days of ice-breaking operations in northern New Brunswick. Of particular concern are the Acadian Peninsula ports of Shippagan, Caraquet and Lemèque, where many of the region’s crab boats are based.

There was so much pack ice that the hovercraft could not get into port and the 83-meter ice-breaker, the Sir William Alexander, had to be called in to conduct four break-outs in Chaleur Bay and Shippagan Bay.

The hovercraft has since taken over and has logged four days in Shippagan Bay and around Shippagan wharf. Fishermen have started to launch their crab boats but shore-fast ice is still denying them access to the fishing grounds.

Once the ports are free and the fast ice has moved off, buoys to mark the channels will still have to be placed before the crab fishery can open, Hodgson acknowledged.

“We don’t really have a set (opening) day. We’re basically working with the weather to go day-by-day,” said Hodgson who acknowledged near gale force wind out of the east on Tuesday has helped clear some of the fast ice.

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