B.C. spot prawn prices plummet as Asian markets vanish due to COVID-19

B.C. spot prawn prices plummet as Asian markets vanish due to COVID-19
Watch The spot prawn fishery that's underway off Vancouver Island right now has been devastated by plunging prices due to COVID-19. As Skye Ryan reports, with their largest markets in China and Japan, fishermen are struggling to make enough money to pay bills, and hoping for a turnaround that right now seems very far away.

An energized crew of a boat named Little Kathy pulled into Ladysmith harbour Friday loaded with live B.C. spot prawns.

The crew unloads them as fast as they can, hurrying to get their day’s catch on the next ferry bound for the Lower Mainland.

The prawns will ultimately end up in restaurants in Vancouver, one of the few markets remaining for prawn fishermen.

“That’s a big change because of what’s going on with export markets,” said fisherman Fraser MacDonald.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused business to plummet for the Vancouver Island catch.

B.C. spot prawns biggest markets have traditionally been China and Japan, but both have been cut off by the pandemic.

The lack of demand from overseas markets has driven prawn prices down according to Justin McNab of Hub City Fisheries.

“I’d say we’re probably about half of what the market was at last year,” he said.

Hub City Fisheries, is one of the largest buyers of seafood on the mid-Island.

According to McNab, what’s made the problem worse is that many freezers in Japan are already full of prawns because buyers stocked up on them ahead of the Olympic Games, which has now been rescheduled because of COVID-19.

That excess supply means prices may drop even further.

“We don’t know what direction it’s going to go in,” said McNab.

This is just the first financial hit B.C. fishermen will take this year.

Once prawning is done, many switch their gear over for tuna fishing, and their main markets happen to be China and Japan.

MacDonald said his prices will be affected and no one really knows what is going to happen.

“It hurts,” he said, adding. “It’s difficult for guys to justify whether or not they’re going to go out and fish or not.”

Still,  MacDonald plans to keep prawning for the week he has left, then go out tuna fishing, too, all while remaining positive.

“Try to focus on the things you can control,” said MacDonald. “Do the best you can at that then see where the chips fall every year.”

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!