You may remember a few months ago I discussed sustainable seafood options in Australia in Seafood: The good, the bad, and the ugly. Prawn lovers may have been upset to find that prawns where an unsustainable seafood choice due to their destructive fishing methods. This is unfortunate news for a prawn loving nation and for many dietitians who often recommend them as a healthier alternative to high fat meats.
A Different Story For Prawns in Canada
Imagine my surprise when coming over to Canada and seeing BC’s very own Spot Prawns on Environmental Scientist and Activist David Suzuki’s Top 10 Sustainable Seafood Picks. After some more investigating I found that SeaChoice, Canada, gave them a green light or “Best Choice” in terms of sustainability.
This assessment is based on based on the five sustainability criteria used for fisheries assessments:
- inherent vulnerability to fishing pressure;
- status of wild stocks;
- nature and extent of discarded bycatch;
- effect of fishing practices on habitats and ecosystems;
- and effectiveness of the management regime.
The Sustainable Story Behind BC Spot Prawns
What makes BC Spot Prawns so different from other prawn species is the method of fishing used. Instead of big trawlers digging up the oceans floor, Spot Prawns are caught using traps. Traps reduce bycatch and the prawns are managed on a female:male ratio. Fisheries are only opened for a few months of the year starting in early May and only 252 licenses were issued this year. This refers only to Spot Prawns caught on the Canadian Pacific. Other Spot Prawns, including those caught off America’s Washington and California coast, have been given the amber light “Some Concerns” due to a medium level of bycatch and link to moderate habitat damage.
What Everyone Needs to Know About How To Enjoy Prawns Sustainably
In North America, prawns are the most popular seafood of choice. Coming from salmon country I did find this surprising, but then I reflected on how many shrimp options appear on restaurant menus. From pasta’s to sandwiches to curry’s, shrimp goes with everything! How and why are we eating so much shrimp? More and more shrimp is coming from tropical shrimp farms in Southeast Asia and Latin America. Unfortunately the effects are high levels of disease and pollution and devastation of 40% of the worlds mangroves. In case your wondering, mangroves play an important role in reducing CO2 emissions and store 5 times more carbon then even tropical rainforests. Not to mention their role in the filtering of waterways to protect coral reefs and being the habitat of many animal species. The Mangrove Action Project has a lot more excellent information on this topic here.
How Do We Know What Prawns Are Sustainable
Spot Prawns have a distinctive reddish brown shell and their abdomen has white spots. They are also the largest shrimp species found on Canada’s west coast. You can find them at local Ocean Wise markets and restaurants. Click here for a list of restaurants and markets where you can find these seasonal prawns. Check out SeaChoice here for more information on sustainable prawns. In Australia refer to the Australian Marine Conservation Society here; currently they only sustainable prawn option is haul caught School and Bay (Greentail) Prawns in NSW.
A Dietitians Last Words On Prawns
Prawns are an excellent source of protein, a good source of omega 3 fatty acids and a great way to get iron, zinc and vitamin E. They are also low in saturated fats. If you can get your hands on some BC Spot Prawns which are available frozen year round, then make sure you don’t go overboard. Prawns are high in natural cholesterol which may affect your cholesterol levels. Currently recommendations are 300mg of dietary cholesterol per day or 200mg if you have a history of heart disease or diabetes. A 100g serving of prawns may contain anywhere between 120-250mg of dietary cholesterol depending on the species. Enjoy responsibly and sustainably :)
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Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.