Alistair MacGregor wants the federal government to hold a parliamentary inquiry on the decision by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to change regulations regarding the harvesting of spot prawns.
MacGregor, MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, has sent a letter to Ken McDonald, chairman of the government’s Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, asking for an emergency review of changes to the regulations.
“At a time when B.C. residents are looking to support local food producers by enjoying the seafood caught right off our shores, the federal government is actively making that more difficult,” MacGregor said.
“I look forward to my letter being addressed with the urgency it demands at upcoming committee hearings.”
Without any consultation or notice and just shortly before the beginning of this year’s spot prawn season, the DFO has made the sale of frozen-at-sea spot prawns potentially illegal, which could effectively stop the sale of all frozen spot-prawns to Canadian markets.
DFO’s objection to freezing spot prawns is in reference to a reinterpretation of the regulation requiring all harvested products to be readily available for measurement by enforcement officers on fishing boats.
The measurements are typically done while the prawns are still alive on the sorting tables and, up until now, if they were already frozen, the fishermen would be required to thaw the prawns so they could be measured.
In B.C., about 2,450 metric tonnes of spot prawns are harvested annually, with about 65 per cent coming from the waters between Vancouver Island and the Mainland, and many prawn fishers reside in McGregor’s riding.
After learning that the DFO has changed the regulation, MacGregor and Vancouver Island NDP MPs Gord Johns and Rachel Blaney met with the BC Prawn Industry Caucus, which protects and defends the interests of the province’s commercial prawn harvesters, to discuss the potentially devastating impacts the new regulation would have on west coast prawn fishers.
MacGregor said the amended DFO regulation comes after decades of prawn fishing without any significant violations of catch guidelines.
He said that instead of taking a proactive and innovative approach to improving food security, the DFO’s decision will make things worse.
“If the sale of frozen-at-sea prawns is made illegal, B.C.’s spot prawn harvesters will be unable to earn an income in an industry they’ve invested so much in, and over 600 families will be seriously impacted,” MacGregor said.
“This will also disrupt our coastal communities’ wishes to support our locally based commercial fishers. This [Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans] plays an important role in holding DFO and the minister to account, and I believe they must be made to answer for this decision through a parliamentary inquiry.”
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