Sealers are skirting heavy ice as they wait for word from the federal Fisheries Department on the start of this year's seal hunt off the northeast coast of Newfoundland.

The decision could come late in the day Wednesday and the hunt could begin Thursday morning.

Sealer Ted Watkins of Cottlesville, Notre Dame Bay, said a lot of vessels are steaming north of the Funk Islands to get to the front.

"There's strings of heavy ice all around and there's convoys of boats, something like a war," Watkins said. "There's boats behind as far as I can see and boats ahead as far as I can see and everyone's travelling, working to the north."

This year's quota for harp seals is 270,000, a reduction from 335,000 in 2006.

"We know it's going to be short and sweet," Watkins said. "No one is looking forward to a long trip."

Watkins said he has heard prices of $55 to $60 a pelt for the harvest, but is hopeful those numbers will rise when price wars begin among buyers as fishers begin to land their catch.