BC Prawn Fishing Season

January 19th, 2009

Commercial Prawn Fishing Season in BC… May – July

Everyone loves fresh BC prawns, there is something special about knowing that the food that you are going to eat was just plucked from the ocean a few hours ago. The quality of fresh spot prawns is incredibly hard to beat. Unfortunately, the season for fishing prawns commercially only lasts May until July of each year. The season’s length is controlled by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) who regulate the fishery to maintain healthy stock levels.

Commercial BC Prawn Fishery Closed Area by Area

The DFO start the season after the majority of female prawns have spawned. Before and during the prawn season sampling technicians monitor and test the fishery to determine the ” Spawner Index”. This is a complex calculation of how many females or potential spawners are coming up from the depths in the traps. The object is to close the fishery, if the index is not high enough, to ensure there are enough spawning females the following winter to maintain the stocks. There is some flexibliity built into the management system so that DFO biologists can close relatively small areas if the stock is weak in that area, without closing the whole fishery. The commercial prawn industry has made sustainability a central feature and various rules have been put in place to that end. Such as, commercial prawn fishers are only allowed to work from 7am to 7pm and can only haul each trap once per day.

As a consequence, the prawn fishing season is variable. However, fresh BC spot prawns tend to be available from May until July each year.

Longer Season is coming

The industry is working on ways to extend the season, so that fresh and live product is locally available for more of the year while always keeping in mind that sustainability is most important. As a result, Spot Prawns have been cited in David Suzuki’s list of sustainable world sea products and are recognized as sustainable by montereybayaquarium.org and seachoice.org as an ecologically sound seafood choice. This is in contrast to competing products which are imported from south east Asia.

What to do When Fresh Prawns Aren’t Available – Try Frozen

But what if it isn’t May, June or July? What then. The only option that we have at the moment is to enjoy frozen spot prawns. Frozen prawns are sharp frozen at sea. The sharp freezing process involves keeping the prawns alive on board the vessel until they are ready to be frozen and then freezing them immediately after they are processed. Sharp frozen prawns offer the best possible alternative when fresh prawns are no longer available. In spite of being frozen, they can be quickly thawed and be ready to serve in a matter of minutes.

PRAWNS…the ABCs of Cooking

January 7th, 2009

Possess Rave Adulation Whenever Naturally Served !!! There are an amazing variety of ways to prepare them: barbecued, sauteed, roasted, marinated, stir fries, soups, sandwiches, smoked,- the list can go on. From the simplest to the more complex preparations, they always compliment themselves There is a secret though to all this famed success. A cooking tip that you will love because it is soo simple and yet often not followed. It demands close attention and much discipline. Have I whetted your curiosity? I hope so because it is the key to all the recipes that you may have tried and not had 5 star success. And it is the key to all the prawns recipes you will try from now on. There are many directions that do not even mention this detail. I wonder sometimes if they have actually tried eating their creations. Well, the curtain has opened and the main feature is about to appear.

The Prawn Cooking Secret

Do not overcook. That’s it! I know, it’s ridiculously simple but you don’t know how easily it happens, or…… maybe you do. And I can testify to having eaten too many overcooked prawns that people have prepared that have had the prawns delicate sweet succulence evaporated into never never land. I have also seen recipes that have directed you to boil them for 20 minutes…. ay yi yi!!!

What follows is a recipe that I give to our clients that is quick, simple and simply delicious. I call it Take TEN, that is ten minutes. When the prawn fishing season is past and it is not possible to get freshly caught prawns (which is 9 months of the year), I give them these instructions.

  1. Take the frozen pound of prawn tails, unwrap from ziplock bag and put in sink
  2. Take the cold water tap and turn on to thaw prawns
  3. Take a pot of cold water, (NO SALT) and bring to boil on stove
  4. Take another pan and place butter and crushed garlic and cook til bubbly and the aroma finds the nose
  5. Take the prawns from the sink and put in the boiling water
  6. Take a good look at the clock and count TWO minutes from the time they TOUCH the boiling water
  7. They do not need to be boiled!!!
  8. Take a platter and after draining them, lay them on.
  9. Take the garlic mixture and place in a heated dish and place with prawns on platter.
  10. Take the prawn tail end in your left hand and looking its side, take the first 2 or 3 sections and lift up and around, squeeze the tail and pull the meat out. Dip and delight in a truly West Coast treat!!!!

The essential thing is not to cook them too much. You can cook them even less, but that is a matter of personal taste. Two minutes is perfect for most people and keep in mind since the prawns are still in their shells, they do continue to cook a little after they are drained. The prawns do not need to boil.

I do not recommend cooking prawns this way without their shells. If you want to peel the prawns first, the method of cooking I would use would be to saute them.

Now you have a very quick, convenient way to cook and serve prawns that will not only delight you but also anyone that you serve them to. I have always received compliments. Even people who claim not to enjoy prawns, have been converted, you will have the same success. I look forward to introducing you to more ways of cooking prawns in coming articles.

BC Spot Prawn Named Ingredient of the Year

January 4th, 2009

Vancouver Magazine did a great write up on spot prawns in their May Issue this year they’ve gone so far as to award the spot prawn as their ingredient of the year.  Quite an honor for the spot prawn and those that fish them.  Introducing the spot prawn as the ingredient of the year Andrew Morrison, setup the two logical alternatives, the farmed tiger prawn and the spot prawn.  I’d just like to pick up one of the threads that Andrew started to pursue.

“The strongest argument against them [farmed tiger prawns] is that we have always had a superior alternative sourced by fishermen right here at home.”

Local food is important.  Knowing the people and techniques that are used to grow our food is important.  The age old phrase “you are what you eat” is proving to be very true and very important to our personal health.  Localness also speaks to the sustainability of the food.  Fisherman in BC have a vested interest in seeing the fishery continue, and continue at similar volumes.  And it is abundantly clear that the only way to maintain the fishery is to balance the need for fisherman to make a living with the need for prawns to have time to reproduce and replenish their numbers.

The Localness of spot prawns in the North America also means that if at any point you’re concerned about the fishery and its environmental practises you can just immediately talk to someone.  In Canada the spot prawn fishery is regulated by the Canadian Federal Government Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) (Note: you’ll have to get a DFO Extranet login to access this page). If you’re interested to see the details of the regulation of the fishery you can get have an open view of the legalities that fisherman must comply with.

And if you ever want to know exactly what is going on out on the fishing grounds it is relatively easy to go down to strike up a conversation with one of the fisherman on the most any wharf on the Pacific Coast.  Cultivating a relationship with the fisherman also gives you an opportunity to buy the biggest or freshest prawns that he has to offer.

Spot prawns are a food that you can feel unabashedly good about eating, because you CAN know the people and processes involved in producing the food.  Not only that, it is relatively easy to have an ongoing relationship with the fisherman and enjoy the best of their catch.