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Steveston spot prawn fishers "ecstatic" over DFO's tubbing U-turn

Fishers such as Steveston Spot Prawn are breathing a huge sigh of relief over the DFO's decision to allow tubbing and freezing at sea to continue
Fishers such as Steveston Spot Prawns & Seafood are breathing a huge sigh of relief over the DFO's decision to allow tubbing at sea to continue

“Prawn fishers are ecstatic about this good news!”

Suffice to say, Justin Taylor, of Steveston Spot Prawns and Seafood, was more than happy with a partial U-turn from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) over the at-sea tubbing and freezing of spot prawns.

Less than a year ago, the DFO announced it was making tubbing illegal, as officers couldn’t accurately inspect the size and species of the catch.

The move would have potentially devastating consequences on the spot prawn fishers, who rely heavily on the efficiency of tubbing and freezing the catch in sea water, thus preserving the quality.

But after working with the industry, a solution has been found which ticks the boxes for both parties, not least the fragile prawn fishing industry, which has a very short season.

“The ability to tub and freeze spot prawn tails at sea has been an important practice for many commercial spot prawn fishers, dating back to the pioneering days of the fishery,” Taylor told the Richmond News, after the DFO’s about-turn, which means the tubs, by 2023, with have to be transparent.

“…a large domestic market has been developed for the purchase of tubs, allowing fishers to sell directly to both end consumers and restaurants/fish shops throughout B.C. and expanding across North America. 

“Restricting the practice of tubbing would not only restrict fishers' ability to realize higher prices for their catch, but would also result in less of our spot prawns being sold and consumed locally for our fellow British Columbians to enjoy both at their homes or when they go out to eat.”

Spot prawn season in Steveston is usually around June and sparks huge line-ups along the boardwalk at Fisherman’s Wharf when the fishers are landing their respective catches.

Taylor added that, with changing market conditions and consumer trends, “it is important that fishers have every option available to them and flexibility when it comes to marketing and/or selling their catch during the short spot prawn season to keep their family operations financially viable.”

Instead of outlawing tubbing, the new 2023 regulations will limit the packaged volume of tubbed prawns to 710 millilitres or less and require all packaging to be transparent.

The spot prawn industry in B.C. is estimated to be worth between $40 million and $50 million a year to the province’s economy.