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

SLIDESHOW: Chilliwack firefighters battle large blaze at Rosedale chicken barn Friday

Birds were saved but the buildings on Castleman Road were destroyed by fire

Plainclothes Abbotsford police officer deletes cellphone video after drawing gun on innocent man

‘They never asked me what I was doing there, strictly came out with guns, threatening to shoot me’

Chilliwack Fair kicks off tonight with local talent

Todd Richard and Appaloosa to hit the stage for drive-in concert at fairgrounds

VIDEO: Chilliwack chicken barn destroyed by fire

Chickens saved from blaze as firefighters work to control large fire

50-year-old time capsule unsealed at Abbotsford International Airport

Capsule sealed by former PM Pierre E. Trudeau in 1970, when event became ‘Canada’s National Airshow’

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

UPDATE: Police have Maple Ridge hotel locked down

A large contingent of Mounties are at the Art Infiniti Hotel on Lougheed Highway

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

PHOTOS: Moving day for 110-year-old Fraser Valley heritage house

Chilliwack heritage house makes 1.7-kilometre journey to new location

CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for Aug. 7

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Construction underway on Langley’s new hospice residence

The new 15-bed facility is slated for completion in summer 2021

Most Read