At least six Twillingate fish harvesters are being kept from the crab fishery by miles of ice that have build up just outside their harbour.
Derrick Bath, a harvester on the Polar Venture, said his crew has spent about four hours trying to break through the ice that was pushed in by northerly winds — but has made it only a few miles from shore.
"Basically it's just an ocean of ice ahead of us," he said on Wednesday afternoon. Bath said he's seen harbours filled with ice before, but this is a lot heavier than usual.
"I think we left Twillingate around 12 p.m. and we're just getting out of the harbour … It's just hard going, we're not making any time here at all. We don't see any water ahead of us yet."
Bath said his crew were headed to the crab grounds, and the delay in getting there means there will be more competition, and the crab won't be as high in quality.
"Crab means everything right now, cause the seal fishery is gone, the shrimp — pretty much they got that all taken from us," he said.
"We have quite a bit of crab to catch so we're trying to push to get out and get it as early as possible."
Time for compensation: FFAW
The Fish, Food and Allied Workers union said in a news release on Wednesday that hundreds of fishing boats are being kept ashore by the ice that has built up around Newfoundland and Labrador.
President Keith Sullivan called on the federal government to pay compensation to fish harvesters who are kept away from the fishery.
"For many, E.I. benefits run out next week, which will leave families without any income for the foreseeable future, since ice is expected to be a problem until at least mid-May," the FFAW wrote in a statement.
The federal government spent nearly $8 million in 2007 to compensate fishermen who were unable to work because of ice conditions.
The union said ice compensation payments were also made in 1974 and 1990.