Says without an ice compensation package, they’ve no choice but to brave rough conditions
A Harbour Round fisherman says he had no choice but to try to fish in the dangerous and icy sea conditions he found himself in Sunday.
It was a decision that cost him his boat, but he could have paid a much higher price — the lives of his crew, and his own.
Search and rescue crews saved five crew members from the Baie Verte Peninsula off Round Harbour this week, after the ship DLL Venture hit ice and started taking on water. Skipper Lorne Fudge said the crew was fishing in icy conditions because they felt they had no other choice because of the lack of ice compensation from the government.
— Photo courtesy of JTF Atlantic/Twitter
Lorne Fudge said he and his four crew members were on his 40-foot crab boat, the DLL Venture, 20 miles east of Round Harbour in Notre Dame Bay at the time.
“We were going through a bit of soft ice there. I didn’t think there was anything to hurt, really,” he said of his boat.
“But all of a sudden she split abroad in the front.”
Fudge, the skipper, said the boat started taking on water quickly, and he and his crew immediately began making preparations to abandon ship.
“I sent the mayday out and got the response back, and then we got ready and knew we had to get
out because she wasn’t going to last much longer,” he said. “She was going down.”
Fudge and the crew members took refuge on
an ice pan, where they were able to light a fire and wait until 103 Search and Rescue arrived from Gander.
According to the Joint Task Force for Atlantic Canada, the call was put through the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Halifax, which co-ordinated the rescue with the 103 Squadron.
All five men were hoisted safely from the ice.
“It was good that no one was injured and we were all rescued safely,” said Fudge.
He commended the quick work of the search and rescue team for that, and said the crew wasn’t in distress for long before help arrived.
“I’d say we were only on the pan for about 40 minutes,” he said.
“It wasn’t long at all before they had the chopper there and they were able to get us out.”
Fudge said while he knows the conditions weren’t ideal for fishing, he felt he had no choice but to try because of the lateness of the season.
“The ice is probably the worst I’ve ever seen it, this year,” he said. “We were after being out there for two or three days, but we didn’t have a load on board because the ice was just too bad to fish.”
Despite the conditions, with their employment insurance claims running out and no sign of an ice compensation package coming from the government, Fudge felt he had to go to sea.
“You’ve got to go out and try it, because you’ve got to live,” he said. “Just because there’s ice in the harbour doesn’t mean the bank isn’t going to come looking for their money.”
Fudge said he doesn’t like the situation he and others have been put in. He said other fishermen have done the same and set out on the water in dicey conditions. However, others have deemed it too risky and have decided to wait it out.
“I’m pretty sure the ice is what caused the accident,” Fudge said.
“It had to be. But then again, if we had had an ice package, we wouldn’t have been out there, and I still would have my boat, and we’d still be able to fish.”
The provincial government and the Opposition have called on Fisheries and Oceans Canada to offer some sort of compensation for fishermen who have had their seasons delayed because of the ice conditions this year, but so far there’s been no commitment.
“They did it before. Why can’t they do it again?” asked Fudge. “I mean we’re here and government isn’t doing a thing for us — then again, that’s as much as I expect.”
The skipper and his crew are trying to find another boat so they can get back on the water and not miss out on too much of the season.
“I’ve been spending all the time since we got home trying to find another boat,” Fudge said.
“If I had one now, I’d be back out there again tomorrow — I don’t really have any other choice.”