Flash frozen prawns still sitting in cold storage. (BC Prawns image)

Flash frozen prawns still sitting in cold storage. (BC Prawns image)

3 million pounds of flash frozen, delicious prawns sitting in B.C. cold storage

Global demand for the B.C. specialty plummeted as the COVID-19 pandemic grew

About three million pounds of delicious spot prawns, flash frozen at sea and destined for restaurants in China and Japan, are still sitting in B.C. cold storage facilities.

The spot prawn exporters Black Press Media spoke to all said sales of frozen prawns are crawling this year compared to previous seasons. For some, last year at this time, product was sold out.

People in the industry aren’t surprised. Predictions made at the start of the year that international frozen sales would be unreliable proved correct.

Up-front payments to prawn fishers were around 40 per cent lower than usual in anticipation of depressed sales. Spot prawns are normally among B.C.’s top five most valuable fisheries.

China is B.C.’s largest spot prawn customer, and demand has been dramatically reduced.

“The fact that they had COVID-19 early means there’s been a lack of consumption [in restaurants]. You can’t suddenly recover the market. It’s going to take time for the market to unwind itself,” said Brad Mirau with Aero Trading in Vancouver, estimating that 70 to 80 per cent of their frozen prawn inventory would normally be sold by now.

Sellers are hunting for new buyers, and the process takes time.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s spot prawn fisheries lead Laurie Convey expects the volume harvested to be roughly similar to last year at 1,977 tonnes (3,954,000 lbs).

Prices have also been lower, especially for the medium to large prawns. The jumbo and extra-large sizes seem to have held their value, but it’s too early to conclude. The way the prawn sales operate means it will take months for the industry to be able to compare final prices to last year.

Fishermen are paid a portion of their share up front. Then as wholesalers offload the frozen goods they pay an adjustment to fishermen to match market prices. Contract terms vary between wholesalers, and from buyer to buyer.

Some sellers tried to diversify sales between live and frozen in June and July, to avoid the pile up of inventory. Live sales means local, fresh seafood, often purchased off the dock. While the official numbers aren’t in yet, BC Prawns director Miek Atkins says it was a great year for domestic sales, noting that it’s becoming more common to see B.C. prawns in grocery stores.

Ian Leitch with Sea Plus Foods in Powell River said they dabbled in live sales this year, and will double down on it next year. They’ve yet to sell 80 to 85 per cent of their frozen prawns.

If the inventory sticks around into next year, it could drive prices down even more for fishermen. Convey doesn’t expect there to be fewer fishermen, though. Prawn abundance is highly variable, and in her experience even if there’s leftover inventory all the fishing licences are active.

She added that from a DFO perspective, the season went well. With COVID-19 safety concerns, they were happy to be able to open the fishery at all. It was delayed by a month to give industry and DFO observers time to develop safe work procedures, and by all counts that aspect of things went well.

In the meantime, the wild-caught, flash frozen prawns are huddled in a storage facility waiting to be shipped … somewhere.

RELATED: Strong season but no market for B.C.’s spot prawn fishers

RELATED: Spot prawn season is open in B.C., and this year it’s staying local

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


fishing

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Area resident Shandel Dyck submitted a photo of a police situation in a mobile home park in Lumby Oct. 26, 2020. She said she saw officers with their guns drawn as they surrounded a suspect unit. (Shandel Dyck - Contributed)
North Okanagan Mounties mum on Lumby incident

Police said further details will be released tomorrow morning

The 100 Radon Test Kit Challenge targets municipalities across Canada where radon testing has been limited, but where there is a potential for homes to have elevated radon levels. Vernon is participating. (Image contributed)
Vernon takes on Radon Challenge

200 free radon testing kits are up for grabs as part of the third annual challenge to test for gas

A gassy smell at the Vernon Courthouse Friday has been ruled insignificant on Nov. 15, 2019. (Caitlin Clow - Morning Star)
Round Lake murder case to come back to Vernon court

Lynda Sundry, 59, faces first-degree murder charges after remains of Barry Jones found

Armstrong’s Christyna Whieldon is $1M richer after scoring a winning Lotto 6/49 ticket from the general store. (BCLC contributed)
Armstrong mom $1M richer after candy run

Christyna Whieldon bought a winning ticket from Armstrong’s general store

Vernon Fire Rescue Services responded to a vehicle that crashed into a Vernon home on 17th Street Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (City of Vernon photo)
Vernon woman faces drunk driving charges after crashing Mustang into house

Three reported sustaining minor injuries in Sunday incident

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. Ontario’s overly cautious approach to COVID-19 testing is endangering lives and hindering efforts to rein in soaring infections that are ravaging long-term care facilities, filling ICU beds and lurking silently in communities, say critics alarmed by the province’s admission that labs can handle four times the number of tests they receive. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media file)
Penticton RCMP cleared of wrongdoing after man seriously injured in custody

B.C.’s police watchdog found no evidence of harm caused by police in Sept. 21 incident

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

Friends and family of Sonya Riome, 35, are confirming she died in the fire. (Submitted)
Woman dies in weekend Revelstoke house fire

The fire gutted the property

Apex Mountain Resort received 35 centimetres of fresh snow over the weekend, prompting some to head out for some early season turns. (Apex Mountain Resort / Facebook)
Stay off the mountain: Apex warns of early season dangers

Recreational use of the mountain before opening day comes with serious risks

An Instagram post from Matty Rebman shows his injuries as well as a plea to the driver who struck him. (Instagram/Matty Rebman)
Hit and run kills dog, severely injures West Kelowna man

The car was abandoned but police could not locate its driver

Most Read