DFO Makes the Sale of Frozen Spot Prawns Illegal
A recent decision by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is throwing into havoc British Columbia’s $45-million commercial prawn industry affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of families throughout the province. With neither consultation nor notice and just a few short months before the beginning of the spot prawn season, the DFO has made the sale of frozen-at-sea spot prawns illegal, effectively stopping the sale of all frozen spot prawns to Canadian markets. Members of the industry are asking for public support in challenging the decision, supporting BC harvesters, and giving consumers the ability to continue the movement to eat local and access Canadian prawns.
The wide-spread consequences of the ruling include:
- The inability of BC spot prawn harvesters to make a living. Without global markets due to the pandemic nor the ability to sell prawns domestically, there is no financial sense in harvesting spot prawns. Over 600 families will have their livelihoods destroyed by this decision.
- Despite the growing demand for local food, Canadians will be unable to purchase and eat Canadian prawns.
- Local chefs and restauranteurs who are already struggling during the pandemic will be unable to offer spot prawns that are in high demand from their customers.
- Fishmongers, grocery stores, CSFs (Community Supported Fisheries) and other buyers will be hard hit by the loss of this high-demand product.
- The impact will ripple through fishing communities up and down the west coast that have invested heavily and depend intensely on the industry.
- The impact felt by First Nations families will be especially significant. While the Canadian Government’s reconciliation efforts make spot prawn licenses available with one hand, with the other hand, they take away their only viable market for this catch.
There is no reason for this sudden re-interpretation of a fisheries regulation.
- Spot prawns are abundant and well managed on the BC coast.
- Spot prawns have been frozen at sea in seawater for over 50 years.
- The DFO recently reinterpreted a regulation that states that all catches must be “readily available” for inspection. They suddenly claim that prawns frozen in seawater are not “readily available” for inspection.
- Enforcement has been inspecting live spot prawns on sorting tables aboard vessels for decades and has encountered no significant violations of catch guidelines.
- It takes less than 5 minutes to thaw a tub of frozen spot prawns in running water.
- Legal advice confirms that this minimal effort to thaw prawns does not violate the definition of “readily available” should enforcement wish to further inspect already frozen prawns.
- It is questionable whether or not the DFO has jurisdiction over already processed products onboard fishing vessels at all. This is more appropriately the jurisdiction of the CFIA.
- Across the industry, many other seafood products are processed and frozen at sea including solid blocks that are less “readily available” for inspection than frozen spot prawns.
HOW YOU CAN HELP!
Let these MPs know that you care about harvesters and about eating local. And that you expect decision-making to be fair and transparent and made in consultation with First Nations and all stakeholders. By signing this petition in support of reversing this decision, you will be supporting chefs, harvesters, fishing communities, consumers, and local food systems.