Long days, growing frustration at Covehead Harbour as dredging continues

Concerns are growing for fishermen over navigating around sandbars after a lobster boat got stuck in Covehead Harbour Thursday afternoon.

'Everyone's just having a hard time'

At least two P.E.I. boats have gotten stuck on sandbars this week while others have had to be redirected to alternate harbours because of sandbars. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Concerns are growing for P.E.I. fishermen over navigating around sandbars after a lobster boat got stuck in Covehead Harbour Thursday afternoon — the latest incident in what's been a week of rough sailing for some Island fishermen.

The Transportation Safety Board has also had investigators at Hardy's Channel after a lobster boat got stuck there Monday. A spokesperson said they're still gathering and assessing information.

"It's making longer days, burning more fuel and trying to revolve our day around the tides," said Jeff Shaffer, a deck hand on a boat in Covehead.

"Instead of just leaving at normal time, we're coming when the tide's at the highest, and try and race and try and get it done before the tide is gone out, but it doesn't work out," Shaffer said. "It's definitely adding a couple hours to our day." 

For instance Shaffer said they had to cut their fishing day short Thursday because the boat was in port re-fueling when the tide went out, making crossing the sandbar impossible. 

Week-long struggles

Dock workers said the latest crew to get stuck Thursday afternoon was trapped on a sandbar for about five hours.

Dredging equipment at Covehead Harbour has been unable to operate most days because the water has been too rough, local fishermen say. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

CBC spoke with the captain of the boat that got stuck at Covehead Thursday, who said he wants to know why more dredging wasn't done in April before the lobster season started.

Earlier this week, fishermen at Covehead were unable to get past a sandbar and were redirected to dock at Tracadie Harbour or North Rustico Harbour.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is continuing its surveys of Hardy's Channel and Covehead Harbour, looking to see if the areas need to be dredged. 

'It causes quite a mayhem'

Even with a dredger on site, dredging has been delayed because conditions on the water have been too rough to operate the equipment.

A crew unloads their catch at Covehead Harbour Friday afternoon. Workers at the harbour say days have become longer on the water for fishermen and that more dredging should be done at Covehead. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

"I just want to see them get it all dredged out," said Tyler Stanley, who helps unload fishing boats at Covehead. 

"It's slowing down production out here, it's slowing down the fishermen and everyone's just having a hard time getting through it. It causes quite a mayhem."

Fishermen are coming into port several hours later than usual and are concerned about getting their catch into coolers in a timely manner, Stanley said. 

P.E.I. Fisheries Minister Robert Henderson told CBC News it will take at least four more days before the area is properly dredged and that fishermen should be cautious heading out onto the water. 

"I urge all fishers to take these equations into context and make sure that they're properly making decisions when they're loading their boats, to entering in and out of a harbour, to make sure that they take weather conditions into a factor," he said.

For safety reasons, dredging can't take place when conditions are too rough, Henderson said. 

There are also dredges in place at North Lake and Malpeque Harbours, Henderson said. 

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