Monday, August 31, 2009

They may be getting a little crabby about crab traps at BC Ferries

The Northern Adventure is back on the water again, making its first run in five days today after spending yet another weekend in port removing crab lines from it's propellers.

The Ferry suffered the crab line problem one week ago, requiring it to be taken out of service, upon resumption of its travel timetable last Monday it once again ran into crab lines, necessitating another weekend tied up while divers worked on the latest snags.

The Queen Charlotte Islands Observer outlined the latest details of crab line conundrums...

Ferry back in service after another crab trap tangle
Queen Charlotte Island Observer
Monday, August 31, 2009

The Northern Adventure returned to service Monday morning (Aug. 31), sailing to Skidegate with a load of passengers who had been stranded all weekend in Prince Rupert.
The ferry missed five sailings after it tangled with crab trap lines again while travelling to Skidegate on Friday. It had only been in service for a few days since having the very same problem the previous weekend.

BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said the company is well aware of the serious inconvenience and impact on tourism to Haida Gwaii posed by the continuing ferry breakdowns.

Ms Marshall said BC Ferries has started sending divers down to clear the propeller and shaft of crab lines every time the Northern Adventure docks in Prince Rupert. The lines had been cleared out Friday morning, but the ship ran into more lines during the Friday crossing and arrived in Skidegate with the shaft fouled once again. Sailings were cancelled and the Northern Adventure headed back to Rupert Saturday morning escorted by a tug boat.

It was back in service Monday doing catch-up sailings, and is supposed to be back on schedule for the 11 am Tuesday departure from Skidegate.

The crab fishery opened July 20 and it seems that the crabs have moved further south, putting the fishermen's trap locations in direct conflict with the ferry route. Dan Edwards, the new executive director of the Area A Crab Association, said the fishermen were given coordinates for the ferry's route last year. They have also been given a map outlining the ferry's path.

"There is a problem associated with the crab gear and we are trying to keep the lanes clear," he said. "If there is gear in the lane, we will ask people to get it out of the way."

Mr. Edwards said that some of the crabbers have reported seeing the ferry outside of its mapped route, so the fault may not lie entirely with the fishermen.

He also said that while the crab season will likely stay open until spring, fishermen are working most intensively right now to take advantage of the good weather.

"You'll have less and less gear in the water as the summer comes to an end," he said.
There are 52 vessels working in Area A, which covers Hecate Strait as well as the waters north, west and south of the islands. They have 35,000 traps.

Ms Marshall said BC Ferries crew members found seven floats attached to the many ropes fouling the Northern Adventure (but no traps, and no crabs). The floats have tags embedded in them which can identify the owners, so BC Ferries and the crab association are working on that.

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