TWILLINGATE, NL – Pack ice is wreaking havoc on the Twillingate economy. Harbourmaster Gord Noseworthy shakes his head as he describes the situation.
“Nothing is getting landed. I have been working here for 21 years and I’ve never seen it like this.”
He looks over at the boats tied up at the wharf and explains the ripple effect the ice has on the small outport community.
“It is not just the boats and their crews that are being affected,” he said. “We have 50 to 60 people that load and unload the boats that aren’t working. These workers probably won’t get enough to qualify for EI. The crab that is usually landed here is being sent to places like Harbour Grace and Catalina. Not a single seal came onto our dock this year,” Noseworthy said.
“Supermarket sales are down, gas sales at the local service station go down. A lot of our economy is tied to the provisioning of the boats, as well as the wages provided by the industry.”
The Harbour Authority also provides scholarships and donations in Twillingate, “and this year we are going to have to make drastic cuts just to survive.”
Ernie Watkins, owner of the Waterside Fishmarket, is concerned about the impact.
“It’s hurting the community,” he said. “We are now scrambling to bring in product from as far as St John’s and Harbour Breton. We’re shipping in mussels from Triton because the Summerford plant is closed. They can’t get their mussels out of the water. Plant workers are laid off.”
Lobster fisherman Hardy Troake is looking at a seriously depleted season.
“Lobster season was supposed to have opened May 7,” he told the Pilot Friday. “It was then delayed until the 13th and look now; we still haven’t been able to get out.”
With no change in the forecast, the situation looks bleak, he said.
Lobster prices that were at a premium at the start of the season are now decreasing. “Even if we do manage to get our traps into the water, we are already going to see significant losses as the price for lobster slides.”
Another cause for concern is that most fishermen’s EI benefits will run out June 15.
As he watches the lobster season slip away, Troake adds, “If I’m not making money, I won’t be purchasing a new vehicle or shopping in Gander. The effects of this fishery will be felt well beyond just the Twillingate area.”
It isn’t just fishing that’s being pinched.
Chris Scott, the new owner of Twillingate Adventure Tours, is losing business in what is purported to be a record year for iceberg viewing.
“We were hoping to be on our way on May 22 but we still haven’t even been able to get the boat into the water,” he said. “It’s frustrating, because there are dozens of spectacular icebergs around Twillingate, and we just can’t get out there.”
Scott usually runs three tours a day with up to 35 passengers per trip.
“The tourism season is just getting started but we hope there will be a change soon before tourists hit the town full steam.”
While the three major tour boat companies are blocked by the ice, smaller boats operated by Captain Dave Boyd and Skipper Jim Gillard are taking visitors to experience the glory of a seasonal parade of bergs when an opening in the icepack permits.
Incomes are precarious as the bay remains clogged with ice and there is a collective wish that the winds will change so that people can get on with their lives and provide for their families.
By Jim Hildebrand
Special to the Pilot