DFO allowing prawn fishers to freeze catch this year after controversial 'tubbing' ban

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will allow prawn fishers to continue freezing their catch at sea, in a process known as "tubbing," after the DFO initially announced a ban on the practice earlier this year.

In March, the DFO said it would be banning the decades-long practice over concerns that at-sea freezing made it difficult for DFO inspectors to make sure that prawns were of legal size.

The move received swift pushback from fishers who felt blindsided by the decision, which they say came with no consultation shortly before the 2021 harvesting season was set to begin.

Now, the DFO says it will allow fishers to continue tubbing for the 2021 season, and it will continue to engage with the prawn industry moving forward.

"Our goal is, and always has been, to see our Pacific prawn fishery continue to thrive," said Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan in a release Tuesday.

"Working in partnership with the Pacific Prawn Fishermen’s Association, we have agreed on a process that will allow harvesters to freeze their catch at sea this season, just as they’ve done for years," she said. "Size limits remain a critical part of a sustainable prawn fishery, and we will work with industry to develop viable, alternative practices for the long term."

The DFO says that the Pacific Prawn Fishermen's Association has developed a temporary protocol that will make it easier for inspectors to examine frozen catches before they are put up for sale.

In the meantime, the DFO says it will continue to use established monitoring systems to regulate the industry, including size restrictions on nets to allow smaller prawns to escape hauls, and satellite-based monitoring of fishing vessels and the lines they set.

Moving forward, the DFO is looking at other ways of making tubbing products easier to examine for inspectors, either through specific packaging or other new measures.