The federal government is changing the way they interpret a regulation that has been in place for over 40 years, making it impossible for fish harvesters to sell prawns frozen in seawater to a local, domestic market. The commercial spot prawn industry is a sustainable fishery, bringing $45 million each year to the BC economy. With no consultation, and only a few months notice this change has effectively cut off the market for local BC prawns.
DFO’s decision, in the middle of the pandemic, is adding more strife for fish harvesters, who are already facing huge market challenges. Wholesale prices for prawn have dropped more than 50% since COVID-19 hit in 2020, and many prawn harvesters have tried to recover their losses by selling their catch locally. Remote coastal communities are also experiencing barriers to local seafood access, as most of the fish and seafood being caught is shipped and sold internationally. This sudden change in regulation puts the livelihoods of prawn harvesters, their families, as well as coastal economies and local food security at risk.
Our Community Development Director, Cailyn Siider, is also a prawn harvester from Sointula, BC. Cailyn commented, “As fishermen, our connection to the seafood we harvest isn’t just tied to the decks of our boats. Sharing and selling our catch to feed our family, friends, and communities is an integral part of our livelihood and culture. The ability to distribute our prawns locally can be an act of caring for our communities, something that connects us not only to the people whose bellies and freezers we fill but to the ecosystem we are so deeply a part of. This sudden and perplexing re-interpretation of regulation by DFO threatens not only the health and wellbeing of our families and communities, but that of everyone who depends on spot prawns for food, both as a premium product and as subsistence."