Spot Prawns are the largest shrimp species found in BC waters. Spot Prawns are bright red to a reddish-brown colour, with distinct white spots on their tails, and white lines on their upper shell. This upper shell is called a carapace.
Spot Prawns are found along the Pacific Coast of North America from Southern California to Alaska; they are also found in the Sea of Japan to the Korean Straight. In BC, the majority of Spot Prawns in BC are harvested between the waters of Vancouver and Vancouver Island in the Strait of Georgia.
Image from Steveston Spot Prawns
Latin name: Pandalus platyceros
Wild prawns are a short-lived and complex species. They have a 4-year life cycle and start as males then transition to females in their last year. Spot prawns vary in size, but larger females can grow to a total length of over 20cm (8.5 inches) long!
Spot Prawns have 5 pairs of swimming legs (pleopods) and 5 pairs of walking legs (pereopods). They have a sharp rostrum that is a deterrent to predators.
Spot prawns live in subtidal sandy and rocky habitats. Harvested by trap, prawns are typically harvested from ocean depths ranging from 50 to 150 meters (165 to 500').
Spot Prawns generally feed on detritus, small worms and other small crustaceans on the ocean floor. They are a favourite food of octopuses.
Spot prawns are called protandrous hermaphrodites because they start their lives as males, then transition into females.
After hatching from an egg carried on their mothers pleopods, prawn larvae will live in the water column for up to three months before settling to the ground.
Once settled, the prawns will all live as males until they reach maturity at around 2 years. The males will reproduce once and then gradually (over about 8 months) transform into females during their third year. In their third year, females will reproduce and carry eggs on their pleopods for about 6 months before the eggs hatch and the cycle continues.
As part of this complex reproductive process, pacific prawn fisheries are seasonally monitored and managed for population health. These management measures are put in place to ensure sustainable fishing opportunities for all licenced commercial prawn harvesters, as well as First Nation and recreational harvesters throughout BC.
The commercial spot prawn season is based around the complex lifecycle. The season takes place in the Spring, which is the new lifecycle for prawns.