West Coast spot prawns will be rushed to the Okanagan for festival

Foodwise, the Okanagan has entered the mainstream.

Foodwise, the Okanagan has entered the mainstream.

In fact, it’s a bit ahead of the wave because one local seafood vendor and restaurant intend to be actually ahead of top chefs in the Vancouver area  by organizing the very first spot prawns of the fishing season this year.

Jon Crofts, owner of Codfather’s at Guisachan Village in Kelowna, will be making a trip down to the coast on the opening day of prawn season in early May to pick up a shipment of the very first prawns of the year, which he’ll immediately turn around and drive back to the Okanagan.

Here, chefs like Rod Butters, of RaudZ Regional Table, will take delivery of the seafood delicacies and feature them—hours from being trapped on the ocean floor—on his menu that night.

Last year, Crofts went fishing with Steve Johanssen, his favourite fisherman, on the first day of prawn season, then rushed his catch to the Okanagan.

It convinced him of Johanssen’s commitment to respecting the aquatic environment where these delectable crustaceans live.

Not only are they trap caught rather than being netted by a trawler that scoops up everything on the ocean floor, but any bit of bycatch there is in the traps is immediately and carefully returned, live, to the ocean, said Crofts.

“They’re good people to deal with. They treat the environment with respect,” he commented. It’s obvious in his voice, that he really cares as well.

“We have to pass this business on at some point and we want to be able to do that,” he said.

It’s important that everyone be concerned about whether there will be a wild fishery for the children of the future, and sustainable fishing is the only way to achieve that, he believes.

Codfather’s is a partner in Oceanwise, a conservation program operated by the Vancouver Aquarium assuring that members have the best information to use seafood that is sustainably caught.

“We love the outdoors and nature and that’s why we moved here from England,” he said.

When he and his wife Anne-Marie moved to Kelowna a few years ago, they purchased Codfather’s Seafood Market.

Today, Codfather’s  provides the largest selection of seafood in the Interior.

The Oceanwise program has succeeded in creating the first no-fishing zones on the West Coast to allow rockfish to breed, free of fishing pressure, said Crofts.

He also managed to beat out top Vancouver chefs to the first of the halibut when the season opened this year.

“We may be inland but we’re only a few hundred miles from the ocean. It’s more how it’s cared for and cut once it’s caught anyway,” he commented.

The  Pacific Prawn Fisherman’s Association, in conjunction with the Chefs’ Table Society, has just announced that the inaugural Okanagan Spot Prawn Festival will be held here this year, June 4, at Manteo Resort.

It will feature junior chefs vying for the best prawn recipe.

The original Sport Prawn Festival, now in its fifth year, is held at False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf in Vancouver. It takes place May 7 this year.