The City of Campbell River is expressing its opposition to the recent decision by the DFO to reinterpret the legislation allowing spot prawn harvesters to freeze their catch at sea. Black Press File Photo

City of Campbell River supports spot prawn harvesters in their battle against DFO decision

'Poorly-conceived policy' puts livelihoods at risk, says Coun. Ron Kerr

Campbell River city council says a recent decision by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) regarding a re-interpretation of spot prawn regulations is yet another example of “poorly-conceived policy.”

In a letter to the City of Campbell River asking for its support in the matter, Sonia Strobel with Skipper Otto – the Vancouver-based organization that organized a petition against the DFO’s recent decision to re-interpret the legislation that previously allowed fishermen to flash-freeze spot prawns at sea – says that re-interpretation puts the fishery and people’s livelihoods at risk.

“I am sure, with so many Vancouver Island-based prawn businesses in your communities, you understand the seriousness of this sudden change, its disproportionate impacts on Indigenous and rural communities, and its dismantling of the hard work by our people and our governments toward robust local food systems that support small businesses,especially in these challenging times,” the letter reads.

Strobel says once the government saw the backlash to its decision, it has since changed its stance slightly, but there is still serious uncertainty about what will or will not be allowed going forward in the industry.

“The DFO’s current ‘backtracking’ plan is to ‘inform, not enforce’ this year while working toward implementing the change for next year,” the letter continues. “This is obviously unacceptable.”

Council unanimously approved a motion by Coun. Ron Kerr at its April 12 meeting to send a letter of support for Skipper Otto’s cause to Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan, as well as our own regional representatives at the federal and provincial level.

“I think this is just another poorly-conceived policy that’s going to result in the destruction of the west-coast aquaculture economy,” Kerr says, but adds that it’s not enough to simply write letters of concern after decisions like this are made that impact people who make their living through fishing our coastal waters.

“We need to take some time to advocate for them in whatever way possible,” Kerr says. “Letter writing is good, but we need to do more. This is only a small portion of the west-coast industry and a small group of people, but they need our help more because of that.”

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