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A Win For Prawn Harvesters!

Following months of stress and uncertainty surrounding the future of prawn tail tubbing, prawn fishermen have received a win — Minister Joyce Murray has announced that harvesters may continue freezing prawns as they have done so for the past 50 years.

In the spring of 2021, prawn harvesters were hit with troubling news when DFO announced a potential regulation reinterpretation that would see the time-tested method of freezing spot prawn tails at sea become illegal.

While the issue was put on hiatus for a number of months following a DFO decision to not enforce the reinterpretation in 2021 (following pressure from UFAWU-Unifor and a coalition of prawn organizations), the issue recently became a top priority again as the 2022 season approached.

To add to concerns, DFO announced they were considering a reduced tub size of 250ml or 8 oz. This is 1/3 the normal size of 24 oz. This decision was impractical and would have created excess plastic waste — contradicting DFO’s own environmental messaging.

In collaboration with Fisheries For Communities, UFAWU-Unifor pushed back on these proposed changes. Multiple petitions were launched, receiving thousands of signatures, and over five hours of emergency sessions in the House of Commons were dedicated to the prawn tubbing issue.

Today, the Government of Canada released a draft 2022-23 Prawn and Shrimp by Trap Integrated Fisheries Management Plan. This plan acknowledges the feedback that prawn harvesters provided to DFO before announcing that “for the 2022-23 Prawn and Shrimp by Trap season, harvesters may continue using existing containers to package frozen prawn tails in liquid, such as seawater, on-board their vessels.”

The plan also states that in 2023 “DFO intends to update Conditions of Licence for the commercial prawn fishery to include requirements for the use of transparent packaging and a maximum packaging volume of up to 710ml.” This is the size commonly used by harvesters.

The full draft 2022-23 Prawn and Shrimp by Trap Integrated Fisheries Management Plan can be viewed here.

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