March 16th, 2021

DFO Makes the Sale of Frozen Spot Prawns Illegal


“For the past two decades, chefs have passionately had the backs of harvesters and consumers to successfully build the domestic spot pawn industry and advocate for supporting our local food friends and partners,” remarks Ned Bell, chef/partner at the Naramata Inn and founder of Chefs for Oceans. “Pulling the rug out on harvesters will be leaving holes on the menus of restaurants throughout the country. For everyone’s sake – chefs, restaurants, consumers, harvesters, communities and our environment, we sincerely hope that this decision will be reconsidered.”  


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 can you help save spot prawn season?


Read more details and sign and share Skipper Otto’s petition here.  


Call your local Member of Parliament and tell them you won’t stand for this damaging decision or any sudden decision made without consultation.  


Tell others how this important issue will affect us all and ask them to sign the Skipper Otto petition and call their MP.  

Thank you,


Ned Bell 

Partner and Executive Chef at Naramata Inn, Father, Advocate

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Addendum to post from October 17, 2019

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November 4th, 2019


I want to thank my friends in fish for encouraging me to dive deeper and always be willing to learn. I was inspired by the level of passionate engagement my aquaculture post received, and believe that all the related conversations and challenges provide an opportunity to expand this discussion.


I was raised to be curious, conscious and concerned, and to stand up for what I believe in. As we know in fisheries and aquaculture, there are many ever-evolving issues, challenges and opportunities that co-exist. I want to fully understand the complexities of what may first appear black and white.


After listening to my community’s feedback on the post I want to address some key points. Although the post wasn’t focused on a single issue - namely open-net pen fish farming - it has boiled down to this perception. As a result of this feedback, I am even further committed to listening to all informed opinions, continuing ongoing research and ensuring greater clarity. 


With the climate crisis, the health of the planet, and food production gaining deserved public attention, I see the opportunities in responsible aquaculture as incredibly intricate and critically important. But I realize that I need to explain what I mean by the statement ‘I support responsible fish farming.’


In supporting responsible aquaculture (including fin fish, shellfish, seaweeds and aquaponics), I support aquaculture that is:


1: Scientifically supported with certifications that are third-party verified 

2: Ocean Wise recommended

3: Seafood Watch recommended

4: Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) or/and Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certified

5: Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified (when and where wild fisheries are relevant in aquaculture)


I support the future introduction of Canada’s first-ever Aquaculture Act and I strongly support investment and research into technological improvements for aquaculture. Fortunately, in this industry, many of aquaculture’s innovations are linked to improved environmental and social performance, including an increased marketability. 


Globally, there is already a movement to transition away from ocean-based farms wherever there are unacceptable impacts on wild species or the environment to new, appropriately located sites and/or phasing in many of the emerging potential hybrid and closed-containment systems under development. Quite simply, the future of fish is complicated and ever-evolving.


Stay tuned for more deep dives, debates and dialogue around the globally inspired and locally created world of our food systems, and the concerns of our communities in the health of our lands, lakes, oceans and rivers. 


This blog and addendum reflect my personal views and don’t necessarily reflect those of my clients and peers.


Thank you,


Ned Bell 

Chef, Father, Advocate

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October 17, 2019


My name is Ned Bell, and I support responsible fish farming.


As a father, a chef, an advocate and an educator who has done his research I have come to support Canada’s fish farmers. I also support fishermen and women and responsible wild capture fisheries. I support the coastal and rural communities that rely on these marine industries and provide us this important food. Most of all I support Mother Nature. 


Publicly supporting salmon farming can be controversial. But, with broad knowledge gained from studying all sides of the issue, I am sure in my decision to stand shoulder to shoulder with Canadian fishermen and fish farmers, showing support every step of the way. 


Years ago, I wasn’t sure about aquaculture, so I set out to educate myself. My clear understanding comes from dozens of visits to ocean and land-based fish farms around the world that are growing the species we eat by the millions every year in our collective homes and restaurants.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours on salmon, shrimp, sablefish, sturgeon, trout, arctic char, halibut and tilapia farms. I’ve toured their hatcheries and feed facilities, and met with the farmers, scientists, academic experts, government officials and nonprofit organizations involved. I have listened intently and asked many questions.


Through that research, I have come to trust the ocean farmers in Canada. Behind the farmers I trust the regulations and the provincial and federal Ministers of Agriculture and Fisheries, as well as the public service in these ministries. And I believe that through collaboration, public accountability and continued investments in technology and science, we will continue to improve as stewards of our ecosystems and communities. We want to grow high quality, healthy protein without harming Mother Nature, and we are capable of doing just that. In many places we already are. 


Issues will always come up when farming animals. I have found Canada’s aquaculture industry to be forthright, forward-thinking and willing to relentlessly solve issues. 


I have also become convinced that the only way we will sustainably enjoy eating healthy fish into the future is through both farming and wild fisheries, done responsibly. 


Overfishing, climate change, drastic habitat degradation, urban pollution and over-exploited resources are harming healthy and resilient marine ecosystems, putting huge pressure on wild fish populations here and around the world. Wild fisheries need public support, effective regulation, transparency and consistent management. Wild fisheries also need refuge from their biggest threat: rampant illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.  Lastly wild fisheries need consumers willing to pay a fair price for a variety of different locally caught fish. 


Fish farming can help with that, by providing responsibly-raised fish we can eat along with selectively-caught local wild seafood, thus reducing pressure from over-fishing.


Last year, half of globally consumed seafood came from aquaculture. In 10 years that number will climb to upwards of 65 per cent. In Canada we grow a lot of fish and seafood in farms, in water and on land. It is imperative that all stakeholders work together to succeed. Fish farmers and fishermen must thrive equally to ensure the future of their families, their coastal communities, and the future of fish and seafood.


Unfortunately, here on the west coast boom and bust wild salmon returns, historic conflicts and campaigns of misinformation have led many to increasing polarization and standoffs rather than dialogue to learn the full and current picture, including its bright spots.

It’s just not that simple. In an era of intertwined crises in climate, food production, population growth, and human and planetary health the conversation about aquaculture and wild fisheries isn’t black and white. It’s extremely nuanced. We need to get beyond the “us-verses-them” situation and understand we share the same communities and, really, all of us are parts of the problem and therefore potential problem-solvers. 


To have a useful opinion and make good choices, one must strive to be as informed as possible. There are organizations out there to help with that. As a chef I rely on a number of what I call Ocean Guardians to help inform my choices around responsible fish and seafood.


Ocean Guardians 


Let me be the first to admit that when it comes to seafood, keeping track of what’s sustainable can be a challenge. With fish, you need to factor in the species, where it was caught, and how it was raised and harvested- harvesting methods vary in their impact on the environment and targeted species. And the status of any fish or shellfish may change from one year to the next, as its population rises and falls and as fisheries modify their management strategies and harvesting techniques. Thanks fully, there are NGOs out there doing great work to keep track of what’s what’s and presenting it to us consumers in simple and up to date forms via their apps websites. They don’t agree on everything but the debate is healthy, and I try to walk a middle ground. You can download your favourite app onto your smart phone and have information on your fingers tips as your shop or dine out, and you won’t have to worry about whether a fish or seafood is ok to eat. 


Seafood Watch:

Monterey Bay Aquarium in California launched their game changing sustainable seafood program, Seafood Watch in 1999. Their guides and app indicate which seafood items are ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ and which to avoid. 



Ocean Wise:

The Ocean Wise sustainable seafood program was devised to make dining out easier and encourage chefs to our more sustainable choices on their menus. Participating restaurants and fishmongers put the Ocean Wise symbol beside approves fish and shellfish items. The Ocean Wise app is useful for grocery shopping across Canada with many local and national retail partners: it presents the basic facts around sustainability species by species. 



Marine Stewardship Council: (MSC) 

A global nonprofit organization, MSC makes it easy to choose seafood that is certified sustainable, traceable and Wild. It works together with fisheries and companies to effect change, address seafood fraud, and protect our last major source that is wild. Look for the blue MSC label on seafood at grocery stores, fishmongers and restaurants. 



Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is an independent non-profit and labelling organization that establishes protocol on farmed seafood ensuring sustainable aquaculture. The ASC provides sustainable and responsible aquaculture producers with a stringent certification and labelling scheme guaranteeing to consumers that the seafood they are purchasing is sustainable for the environment, and socially responsible. The Aquaculture Stewardship Council was founded in 2010 by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH). The ASC's Vision is "a world where aquaculture plays a major role in supplying food and social benefits for mankind whilst minimizing negative impacts on the environment". Their mission is to "transform aquaculture towards environmental sustainability and social responsibility using efficient market mechanisms that create value across the chain." 



Ocean Wise does not currently recommend open net pen farmed Atlantic salmon produced in Canada from either the Pacific or Atlantic coasts.

Seafood Watch does recommend Atlantic Salmon Farmed in British Columbia as a ‘Good Alternative’ but does not recommend Atlantic Salmon Farmed on the East Coast of Canada.

There are always challenges raising animals for consumption, but I know the large majority of our Canadian fish farmers are doing everything they can to find solutions to their specific unique set of challenges.  Thanks to heavy investment of time, research and resources, fish farming has evolved and come long way in the last decade. Aquaculture in Canada is an extremely progressive, science-based, technology-focused industry.  Aquaculture professionals are environmental stewards because they are extremely conscious farmers committed to ensuring that wild stocks are not harmed. 


We need to eat more nutrient dense plant-based foods, with clean healthy protein as the garnish. Fish is ideal for that, as long as it is sustainably caught or raised, and as local as possible. 


Wild fish and aquaculture are among humanity’s best opportunities to serve the world’s growing population a highly nutritious food with a low ecological impact. 



Eating more seafood makes sense because increased seafood consumption equals better health. 



Wild fish must not be pushed to the brink of extinction in Canada – or globally – in this century. I believe in Mother Nature, I believe we can regenerate, but it is simply not our right to take it all. Responsible Canadian fish farming is part of the solution.