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

Saanich offers free saplings to encourage residents to spruce up for National Tree Day

Giveaway to take place Sept. 21 in Glanford Park from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sooke RCMP searching for two people, reported missing on Sept. 10

Alannah Brooke Logan, 20, and Beau Richard Santuccione, 32, last seen on Otter Point Road

Victoria man plans 30-hour walk to raise funds for vulnerable youth

Take a Hike engages youth in intensive, clinical counselling and outdoor experiential learning

Opponent of proposed Sidney cannabis store calls on councillors to heed health authority advice

Council to consider revised application from Happy Buddha Cannabis on Sept. 28

New urgent, primary care health centre opens in Saanich come November

North Quadra area facility to provide same-day, ongoing care for folks without family doctors

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

POLL: Do you plan on allowing your children to go trick or treating this year?

This popular annual social time will look quite different this year due to COVID-19

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

Application deadline for fish harvester benefits program extended

Those financially impacted by the pandemic have until Oct. 5 to apply

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Man sentenced to 7 years for gas-and-dash death of Alberta gas station owner

Ki Yun Jo was killed after Mitchell Sydlowski sped off in a stolen cube van without paying for $198 of fuel

Most Read