Canadian seal hunters trapped in ice

100-boat ice jam delays cull

Canada's annual seal hunt yesterday suffered an unscheduled delay as 100 small boats bearing hunters were trapped by thick ice off the northeast coast of Newfoundland, Reuters reports.

An icebreaker was deployed to free the vessels, at least one of which had to be abandoned. CBC television reported that some boats were running out of food and fuel, and hunter Gill Cadwell - whose boat was temporarily lifted out of the water by the ice - admitted: "I've never, ever experienced nothing like this."

The prognosis from Coast Guard Captain Windross Banton was gloomy. He told CBC: "Conditions have deteriorated over the last few days as a result of the wind pressing the ice floes into the land. There's quite a few different pockets of vessels all about the area...unfortunately the weather conditions forecast right up until the end of this week are probably going to cause conditions to even deteriorate more so than they are now."

The 2007 seal quota is 270,000, reduced from 2006's 335,000 due to "reduced ice conditions". A federal Fisheries and Oceans Department spokesman said despite the ice-bound fleet, "about two-thirds" of this year's quota had already been clubbed. ®

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