Prawns, fish and shellfish.

T’is the season. The recreational prawn season opened early April. Rockfish opens usually earlier in April but has more local closures (our immediate area is ‘habitat protection’ and closed year ’round) and, of course, there are size and number restrictions. Shellfish is open for about 9 months beginning around April but has more and more local closures for several different reasons. Red Tide is a warm weather algae scourge that affects shellfish but, then again, so does more and more pollution. Stll, ‘fishin’ season is now open.

For locals, ‘fishin’ season is now much more subsistence fishing than recreation. Seafood provides a substantial part of our diet. This year ‘local’ expanded to hundreds more people.

But a couple of subtle observations and factors are also emerging and they are interesting and unnerving all at the same time. Firstly, the openings are more restrictive than they have been but not so much as far as I am concerned. I do not like fishing at the best of times. Reason: I have never experienced a ‘best-of-times’. I usually just chuck lures in the ocean. So, having even just a month to drive myself crazy is good enough for me. Still, I can’t help but notice the fishery resources are apparently diminishing significantly if openings and closures are anything to go by.

Secondly, our area (which used to be open for prawning longer than it is now) had only a few locals who prawned regularly but not that many. Ya really did not have to. Sal and I would go out for a few days and get enough to keep us happy for the year (20 lbs). And I doubt that I would see more than a dozen traps at any one time when we were out there. Not so, this year. This year the channel is littered with traps and I am talking about the little sports fishermen traps that have catch limits and such. The traps have limits but the number of people dropping them has increased ten-fold. Maybe more.

More and more people are subsistence fishing or augmenting their larder/freezer this year.

The commercial guys are allowed in a month later and their rigs are 100’s of traps long and each of their traps is three times the size of the sports fishermen’s. The commercial guys really vacuum up the remaining prawns. This year the prawn fishery will be hit hard. Decimated. If ever there was a most-hated bureaucracy (a lot of competition for that designation), it is DFO. Reason: they manage all fisheries into extinction.

DFO staff recently went on strike for higher wages.

And there are fewer prawns so, instead of closing the fishery, the price simply goes up. Prawn prices range around $40.00 to $50.00 a kg. Management, DFO style.

Recently, the price of Ling cod jumped. Fewer Ling, too. The prices vary but $17.00 – $20.00 a pound is not uncommon on a good day. Recently we saw advertised five pounds of Ling fillets for $129.99. I bought my first car for that amount (used Morris Minor in 1964). Ling cod used to be the lower end value fish. And God forbid DFO catches you with two Lings in the boat. They take your boat! There is a one-catch-a-day limit. Same for Halibut.

And the Dungeness crab has practically disappeared in our area. You can find them in stores for around $50.00 for a near-dead 2lb whole crab. Oysters are the cheapest sea-food now at $40 – $50 a dozen or $15.00 a pound. Clams vary a lot…around $25.00 a pound.

“So, what’s your point, Dave?”

Well, ‘fishin’ used to be a hit-or-miss recreational pastime. Now it is a significant food-gathering exercise for more and more people. Fish and shellfish used to be a cheap and abundant food source. Now it is priced like steak and looks to only go higher. West coast fisheries used to focus on mostly salmon and Halibut with a little Ling for the undiscerning. Crabs were practically free. Today all the species numbers are down. And all the prices for what’s left have gone up.

We’ll likely fish ’em all out in a few years. That’s how DFO manages the fisheries.

Sorry. Damn, man. I do not want to end this blog on a down note. So let me add this….we live in a time when and where few grow their own food. We live in a time and place where few ‘hunt’ their own food. We are all largely company/corporate fed. Still, we can do some of it and we all should. Especially berries in the autumn! Every potato I have ever harvested from our garden was ten times tastier than store-bought. Garden Brussel sprouts are fantastic. All of the seafood I mentioned above is way, way more delicious than grocery store sourced food. I am noting not-so-good signs in the environment (as is my inclination) but that does not mean I am not happy and satisfied with my lot. This is still paradise.

11 thoughts on “Prawns, fish and shellfish.

  1. Damn WordPress had me again. The gist of my comment was that when I entered this biosphere there were something like 5,000 people in this area. Now there are 100,000!
    The Oceans, and their bounty have NOT increased proportionately. Fishing technology and DFO (bless their souls) has escalated.
    Bless you if you can self provide. Otherwise, you’re hooped!


    • You are right, of course, but I cannot totally equate the all-of-a-sudden increase in prawning directly to the numbers of people living on the planet. Maybe I should? To my observations, fewer people have been fishing for a considerable time now…maybe 20 years. Fuel prices did not warrant the effort and result. Seafood is also NOT a preference for many people (especially Albertans). Asian diets still prefer seafood but a lot of city dwellers everywhere else did not SEEM to be following suit. Not that I could see, anyway. The ‘fish’ section of the grocery stores has always been small. But this year was HUGELY different. Hundreds more traps in the water. Hundreds more but all-of-a-sudden they are being dropped after years of slow stock decline…, what made it attractive again? Gas is still expensive. It sure as hell isn’t due to excess bounty. Probably it is the general cost of living overall….unlikely to be a new culinary fad…..I really do not know….all I know is that the oceans are producing less, the peeps are getting more financially stressed and DFO is our leadership.


  2. Thisis happening all over the world. I started fishing again last year when I am on holliday in France (I tried to catch seabass). Where we spend our hollidays, thereused to be plenty of seabass,now it is virtually extinct. You really have to go further in the sea to be able to catch anything.
    But with the prices of food rising, more and more people will start fishing/hunting/growing food themselves.
    On the land I bought, I am growing all kinds of fruit and in the greenhouse I grow stufflike vegetables and strawberries. 3 weeks ago, we harvested our first strawberries, and now we have daily between 4 and 8 pounds. What we can’t eat ourselves, we give to our kids and family, and the rest we sell for a cheap price to neighbours. In the grocery, strawberries are now sold for 3 to 5 €/pound…crazy!
    We have planned to plant even more fruit and vegetables then last year, because we want to try to be more and more self-sustainable.
    And indeed, what you grow yourself tastes 10x better then what you buy in the store


    • Agreed. 100%. Less money. Fewer fish. Better food home grown. More people looking to make the cost of living less (we now have more makers of jam lately, too). My neighbour got into baking bread alla time!!! And many fewer eating out at restaurants. Why do our politicians NOT see what we can see?


  3. I agree. There are fundamental changes going on in our economy. Inflation, housing costs, and other basics are squeezing far too many who of necessity are looking for alternatives- including sustenance fishing. Where will we wind up?


    • If my intuition is correct, this is just one of several changes going on right in front of our faces….right now…and no one is really aware or conscious of it. I mean, who counts prawn traps?
      Mind you, they do measure mass shootings but mass shootings seem to have slipped into the ho-hum category.
      A too hot May, for example, might be another harbinger? An exposed and corrupt Supreme Court, maybe? I really didn’t expect that. But it almost doesn’t matter….we are in for a lot of changes over the next decade or two and most of them will be too hard to ignore. I think we are in for it….


  4. I know a few guys that worked out here on the West Coast for different federal agencies ….all headquarters were in Ottawa.
    Most of these guys quit in frustration due to endless Reports being ignored, decisions were political not based on facts or reason.
    They people out here that are left…..keep quiet and ride out their remaining years to a juicy pension.
    I lived on the East coast when the cod fishery collapsed.
    That was 40+ years ago.
    It’s still collapsed.
    I cant wait to see the blame session when one of the major fisheries out here collapses.
    Salmon, herring, whatever.
    Too many, want too much… a fisherman out here said to me a few years back when I was fixing his boat….
    “Much” always wants “More” and the dead “bycatch” is tossed aside by the thousands of tonnes per year.
    They are ALL being harvested to extinction.


    • It is the major fisheries that are responsible for the population drop.If we would only harvest/fish/hunt what we need, the problem would not be as big as it is today. But money always prevails


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