top of page

DFO Makes the Sale of Frozen Spot Prawns Illegal

March 16th, 2021


“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

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page