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Steveston restaurant, fishermen expecting a ‘crazy’ spot prawn season this year

Spot prawn sales hit the docks on May 15

A long line-up is no surprise during Steveston’s spot prawn season, but local restaurants are still anticipating a “crazy” year with some even calling it a “spot prawn high.”

Every year, spot prawn season gathers seafood fans across Metro Vancouver during the months of May and June and Steveston is one of the hotspots.

This year, vessels will start selling on Saturday, May 15 and the Steveston Harbour Authority (SHA) is working together with the City of Richmond and Vancouver Coastal Health to implement new guidelines for the anticipated busy season.

There will be a one-way foot traffic area at Fisherman’s Wharf on Friday, Saturday and Sundays for the first two weeks of the spot prawn season as well as signs telling people where they need to line up.

Shane Dagan, owner of Steveston Seafood House, one of many restaurants in the village, said the spot prawn season always brings crowds and this year he is more excited than ever.

“I know we aren’t really looking for crowds this time, but this year I think it’ll be an even busier season because everybody is at home,” said Dagan, adding that many people often leave town during May and June.

“We’re excited a lot of locals can experience (it) more this year and by having them close to home, they can enjoy the season.”

Like every business, Dagan’s restaurant was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. However, he was able to build and open up a backyard patio in time for spot prawn season.

“We’ve had to adapt to the restrictions so many times and the spot prawn season was one of many factors we rushed the patio work.”

What has Dagan excited is not only the anticipated business the spot prawn season will bring but also the collaboration the restaurant will be having with Steveston Spot Prawn’s “Just Travelin” vessel for a special spot prawn menu.

Meanwhile, Steveston Spot Prawns, a multi-family fishing business, is participating in their sixth spot prawn season this year and is expecting a busier dock and more orders compared to last year.

“Last year was astronomical. It was the best fishing we’ve had, the longest line-ups at the docks we’ve had and we’re expecting the same, if not better, this year,” said Brianna Stylianou, sales manager at Steveston Spot Prawns.

“We are so lucky to live and work in Steveston and I think the biggest highlight is to interact with people when they come to talk to us. It’s just so rewarding especially in this community.”

She added that the “craziness” of the spot prawn season isn’t the long line-ups that she sees every year, but how early customers line up for the prawns.

“It’s like a spot prawn high, people line up as early as 6:30 a.m. during the first week of the season sometimes.”

On top of in-person dock sales, Steveston Spot Prawn is taking online pre-orders for pick-up and for evening deliveries.

Stylianou told the Richmond News that the pandemic has affected their business and other fishermen who rely on big buyers.

According to Stylianou, many fishermen can’t sell much of their catch to buyers because restaurants were being shut down and prawns and seafood weren’t being sent overseas either.

This, in turn, led many boats to turn to dock sales, which she added, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“Last year there were about four boats during the spot prawn season and this year there is apparently up to 10 boats participating and people want to get involved with the community,” Stylianou said.

“It benefits the local community at the same time because there are more fresh and live prawns.”

Another local family fishing company had to do just that to stay afloat during COVID-19.

Lynette Kershaw, whose family owns Prawns on the Spot, is joining their second spot prawn season in Steveston.

Kershaw said their usual business is with wholesale seafood market companies, but restaurant closures, it caused a trickling effect on their business. That was when they decided to sell directly to the public starting last year.

“We’ve always sold salmon and other products in Steveston, but since last year when we started selling spot prawns at the docks, we really enjoyed being directly in front of customers and talking with community members,” said Kershaw.

“We’re a family fishing company and to us, Prawns on the Spot is not a job, it’s a way of life.”