Spot-prawn fishery to open May 14 as planned

B.C.’s spot prawn fishery will open May 14 as planned, Fisheries and Oceans Canada said Wednesday.

Prawn fishers had been in talks with the federal department over the opening date, announced earlier, because of the potential impact on the market of COVID-19 restrictions. B.C. restaurants aren’t allowed to have in-house dining until May 25, sparking concerns the market would dry up.

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Fishers were keen to know the date so they could plan for the fishery, buy supplies and hire crew. Some preferred May 14, while others wanted a May 26 option.

Prawns are caught by about 250 prawn fishers and sold fresh or frozen in B.C.

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan this week reiterated the plan to permit “tubbing” of prawns this season — where prawn tails are frozen in saltwater-filled tubs onboard a fishing vessel — after earlier announcing it would be banned.

The move to ban frozen tubs sparked an outcry from fishermen, who have relied on it for years.

The department had said the practice meant prawns were not readily available for inspection, as required under federal rules.

DFO said in a statement it will work with the Pacific prawn industry in the next year to develop different packaging practices.

“Our goal is, and always has been, to see our Pacific prawn fishery continue to thrive,” Jordan said. “Working in partnership with the Pacific Prawn Fishermen’s Association, we have agreed on a process that will allow harvesters to freeze their catch at sea this season, just as they’ve done for years.”

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