Delayed by ice

Adam Randell
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Opposition calling for ice compensation

Thick ice conditions around the Great Northern Peninsula are causing delays in the fishery and as a result area fishermen are losing income.

St. Carol’s fisherman Whyman Richards said thick ice conditions are preventing fishermen from taking part in the crab fishery. He would like to see an ice compensation provision established to help fishermen until they get their pots in the water.

One fisherman stuck to the wharf is Dale Richards of St. Carol’s.

He planned to be taking part in the annual seal harvest, but ice has forced him to keep Cape Richards tied up.

“The ice conditions just won’t let us out,” he said.

And it’s not looking like the fishermen will be taking to the water anytime soon.

“The charts are looking as bad as anytime this winter,” he said. “It’s northern ice, which is heavy stuff, and it’s bringing icebergs with it as well.”

It’s also delayed them from starting their crab season, which is the Cape Richards main breadwinner.

“Usually we’d be at the seals, and start at the crab in May,” he said.

“Now we are getting to the point where our Employment Insurance is running out, some people’s have already, depending on when they started,” he said.

Richards said if nothing is done fishermen will be out of pocket.

The only solution, he says, is an ice compensation provision that would see employment insurance extended for fishermen, should ice conditions prevent them from fishing at the start of the season.

“I don’t understand why it’s not already in place, it’s not like ice hasn’t been an issue in the past,” he said. “It should be there for when it’s needed.”


Same in the Straits

Bartlett’s Harbour fisherman Romeo Myers is seeing the same thing.

Myers is a lobster fisherman and his fishery has been delayed until May 9.

And he’s pretty certain another ice delay is just around the corner.

He said the town’s harbour is frozen ‘out to the point’.

“I watched a couple of fellers go across to the point, on Wednesday, and that’s a little over a mile from the government wharf,” he said. “This has been some kind of winter.”

With those kinds of conditions he says it’s risky business for fishermen and their traps.

“This is only a shallow bay,” he said. “All it takes is for one big berg to move down and hook a back line and it’s gone with half of what’s in the bay.”

He’s in agreement with Richards’ idea of ice compensation.


Liberals advocating

The Liberal opposition has been pressing this issue for a month.

Straits-White Bay North MHA Chris Mitchelmore said the party started raising concerns well before season openings to try and rally provincial government to get a plan into place before claims ran out.

Since Easter break, Mitchelmore said, the party has continued to voice their concerns through various media, he has written a letter to Fisheries minister Keith Hutchings, and even met with him.

“Right now we are collecting names of fish harvesters, when their benefits are exhausted, or will be exhausted, so that hopefully there will be some form of compensation coming forward.”

Mitchelmore said the party hasn’t taken the matter to the federal level yet, as it is something that would have to be done by the provincial government.

“It has to be something that would be worked out between the provincial fisheries minister and the federal department,” he said.  

As of deadline, any form of compensation had yet to be announced.

Organizations: Employment Insurance

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