Spring ice-break on hold

Cana­dian Coast Guard ice­break­ers po­si­tioned to help fish­ing ves­sels, fer­ries, and off­shore oil and gas

The Beacon (Gander) - - News - BY GLEN WHIFFEN glen.whiffen@thetele­gram.com

It’s the sea­son of the har­bour break­out for the Cana­dian Coast Guard on the north­east coast of the prov­ince.

With the startup of the seal hunt and snow crab fish­eries, fish­er­men on boats in ice-bound har­bours are ea­ger to get go­ing and need a path bro­ken through the ice to get ac­cess to the fish­ing or seal­ing grounds.

But with a huge band of heavy pack ice ly­ing off the north­east coast, the har­bour break­outs may have to wait un­til favourable winds move that heavy ice off.

There is not much point in get­ting fish­ing boats out of the har­bour only to risk them get­ting jammed in heavy pack ice and the fur­ther need for ice­break­ers.

“We are keep­ing an eye out for op­por­tu­nity now to do har­bour break­outs as ice con­di­tions ease up on the north­east coast,” said Trevor Hodg­son, ice­break­ing su­per­in­ten­dent for the Atlantic re­gion.

“What we are look­ing at, for this to hap­pen, are some southerly, south­east or south­west winds to blow the ice off the land and ba­si­cally open up routes from the har­bours to the fish­ing grounds. So as time pro­gresses you will see our ves­sels in­volved a lot more in these break­outs, as well as es­corts of fish­ing ves­sels to sup­port that in­dus­try as need be.”

The Cana­dian Coast Guard held a tech­ni­cal brief­ing in St. John’s Wed­nes­day to in­form mem­bers of the me­dia about its spring ice­break­ing oper­a­tions in the Atlantic re­gion.

While ice con­di­tions were heavy last year in ar­eas of the prov­ince, this year the ice con­di­tions are be­low av­er­age. There are few ice­bergs drift­ing into the re­gion.

“Com­pared to what we look at as nor­mally a 30-year av­er­age, we are look­ing at be­ing well be­low the av­er­age amount of ice for this time of year,” Hodg­son said. “There’s less ice than nor­mal on the Labrador coast, which led to less ice on the north­east coast of New­found­land.

“The north­east coast still has a large band of pack ice block­ing the har­bours for the start of the snow crab sea­son, and we are fo­cus­ing our at­ten­tion on that. There has been ice pushed into the coast sim­i­larly to last year but, un­like last year, the ice con­di­tions there are not as heavy and se­vere. The ice is thin­ner and more man­age­able for our ice­break­ers. There is no in­di­ca­tion at this time that we will see those heavy Arc­tic and Labrador ice con­di­tions reach the coasts.”

Wade Spurrell, as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner for the Atlantic re­gion, noted that from De­cem­ber to May ice­break­ing is “ar­guably the busiest pro­gram for the Cana­dian Coast Guard in the Atlantic re­gion.”

“This area of oper­a­tions is vast and the ice con­di­tions that we ex­pe­ri­ence are very di­verse, from the first ice that forms in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the heavy ice along the Labrador coast to the strong multi-year ice and ice­bergs that de­scend onto our wa­ters from the Cana­dian Arc­tic,” Spurrell said.

“Our clients are also very di­verse. They can run from small fish­ing ves­sels to mer­chant ships of over 1,000 feet and, of course, the off­shore oil in­dus­try.”

GLEN WHIFFEN/THE TELE­GRAM

The Cana­dian Coast Guard’s Wade Spurrell (left), as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner for the Atlantic re­gion, and Trevor Hodg­son, ice­break­ing su­per­in­ten­dent for the Atlantic re­gion, de­tail ice con­di­tions around New­found­land and Labrador this spring and cur­rent...

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