Spot prawn industry under threat after DFO regulation change

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The B.C. spot prawn industry says they are under serious threat, afte DFO said they can not freeze their catch.

The spot prawn industry says it is under threat after the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) changed inspection rules of frozen-at-sea spot prawns.

According to workers in the industry, the DFO notified them that the sale of frozen-at-sea spot prawns will now be illegal.

For more than half a decade, many have frozen their prawns at sea while transporting them to market, however, the practice has now been outlawed as the DFO wants on-board inspectors to be able to have the prawns readily available for measuring in order to ensure they meet size regulations.

“The conservation officers need to be able to quickly measure your product,” said Finest at Sea owner, Bob Fraumeni.

“It’s just going to make it really difficult, especially for the smaller remote communities because they are not close to processing plants.”

He says the interpretation doesn’t make sense, as frozen prawns can be thawed out in just minutes and that very few companies in the Vancouver Island region have broken regulations.

“It only takes about five minutes to thaw out prawns under our hoses on deck,” he said. “We’ve been producing and selling prawns in British Columbia… it’s a poster child fishery in the communities.”

“We are not sure why out of seems to be out of nowhere this has been re-interpreted,” said Sonia Strobel, Skipper Otto CEO.

“If you’re only selling live off the dock it’s really limited what kind of price you can get and the season is only six weeks long and when it’s over that’s it.”

Industry experts say it has taken a long time to build up local demand and this could mean we end up relying on imported supply.

“A lot of people have put a lot of time and energy and resources into finding local domestic markets,” said Strobel.

“The shrimp industry internationally is the most notorious for environmental and human rights abuses, like well-documented slavery on those ships.”

Both Fraumeni and Strobel say here in B.C. many families and communities support and rely on the industry.

“A lot of boats are families, there might be three or four families all living off three boats,” added Fraumeni.

DFO did not respond to CHEK News’ request for comment.

A petition has been started by Skipper Otto in an effort to raise awareness of the issue and inform B.C.’s Members of Parliament about how many residents care about harvesters and about eating local. The Skipper Otto petition can be found here.

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