A fresh catch of wild spot prawns is unloaded at Mad Dog Crabs in Duncan, B.C. (Warren Goulding file photo)

Strong season but no market for B.C.’s spot prawn fishers

Sector hopeful low prices will catch the eye of local prawn lovers

The COVID-19 pandemic has dampened an otherwise strong year for B.C.’s spot prawn fishers.

The fishery closed July 16 roughly one month later than usual after a delayed opening due to the pandemic. Fishers now are reporting strong yields for 2020, with the added benefit of slightly larger sizes thanks to the late harvest.

Normally this would be good news, but overseas markets, that account for about 90 per cent of B.C.’s catch, are not placing any new orders. Roughly 1.5-million pounds of frozen product from last year’s haul is still stockpiled for cancelled Chinese New Year events and the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

“To keep piling stuff into the freezer would be ludicrous,”Mike Atkins, executive director of the Pacific Prawn Fishermen’s Association said.

READ MORE: Commercial prawn, shrimp season opening delayed on North Coast due to COVID-19

“It has the potential to hurt us for a few years to get rid of the backlog, but hopefully China and Japan open back up and get things moving along.”

Shrimp and prawns are one of B.C.’s top seafood exports worth $53.1 million in 2018, with China accounting for 51 per cent of sales and Japan at 22 per cent.

The massive surplus has cut the market value of frozen B.C. prawns in half. Producers are now seeking out new domestic markets to break even.

Atkins its hopeful B.C. restaurants and grocery stores can help absorb the inventory. 

“I know a lot of the fleet are exploring local opportunities that haven’t been explored before,” he said.

But the wildly varying retail prices will probably have to fall in line with actual landed values before the public will get excited about a local market, said Christina Burridge, executive director for the BC Seafood Alliance, a non-profit umbrella organization representing fisheries, processors, marketers and exporters.

READ MORE: Spot prawn season is open in B.C. and this year it’s staying local

“Some outlets are passing on a fair chunk of the lower price to consumers, while other outlets are preferring to keep the price steady because that’s what consumers expect,” Burridge said.

“People love spot prawns. What I think will happen is, as people realize there is significant supply for the domestic market the retail price will come down … and that makes them an attractive option to the farmed prawns from Asia.”

She added British Columbians’ preference for fresh prawns over frozen prawns might also relax as consumers rally behind B.C. fishers and locally-sourced food, as seen in other sectors during the pandemic.

The Pacific Prawn Fishermen’s Association is confident the industry will recover from the season.

“It’s going to be a tough year, but fishermen have seen that before, Atkins said. “Some guys are scratching to break even but I don’t think we’re going to see an influx of boats and licences for sale. It’s still a good fishery — it started in the early 1900s and it’s still really healthy. How many commercial fisheries in Canada can say that?”



quinn.bender@blackpress.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sternwheelers once plied Okanagan Lake

Vessels once transported passengers and goods along the Okanagan Valley

Fires ignite on Revelstoke’s Mt. Begbie; Kamloops Fire Centre blazes holding

Crews working throughout region over holiday weekend to contain wildfires

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

Fourteen blazes sparked in Kamloops Fire Centre

Lightning the suspected cause of all fires but one; cause of Solco Creek blaze remains unknown

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Reported Big White wildfire dubbed ‘smoke chase’

Crews responded to the area but could not locate a fire

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

Wildfire in West Kelowna’s Rose Valley grows to 3 hectares

The fire was first reported at around 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 2.

Man found dead in van on Okanagan road

Foul play not suspected in death of 39-year-old West Kelowna man found in Vernon Saturday, Aug. 1

Most Read