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Cold-water prawns

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The North Atlantic cold-water prawn is remarkable for its bright pink colour both before and after cooking.

The North Atlantic cold-water prawn, Pandalus borealis, is known across the world for its delicate, sweet flavour with a firm and juicy texture to the meat. The cold-water prawn is a great source of protein and low in fat, making it a healthy and nutritious delicacy.

Cold-water prawn products

Cold-water prawns are sold as a variety of products to meet our customers' needs. The prawns are cooked with the shell on, or cooked and peeled before being instantly frozen. Cooked and peeled prawns are also available in brine, or with modified air packaging, as convenient everyday solutions.

Cold-water prawns in the sea

The cold-water prawn is found throughout the North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean, from Canada to Norway. The cold surroundings make the prawn grow slowly, which provides ideal conditions to fully develop the complex flavour and texture.

The prawn has an almost translucent red shell, with long, red antennaes at the top of the head. The spherical black eyes are accompanied by a set of two small, jagged horns at the top of the head. From time to time the prawn’s head may appear slightly darker. The colour may be caused by the prawn’s feed, or it may be developing eggs for spawning. The slightly darker colour of the head does not affect flavour or quality.

The prawn lives near the seabed in soft and muddy benthic conditions at depths of between 20 and 1,400 metres. It prefers water temperatures between 0 and 8°C and feeds mainly on plankton, krill and microscopic worms.

The cold-water prawn is a hermaphrodite and starts life as a male, but turns female after three to four years. When spawning begins in the spring, the eggs are fertilised and the male carries the eggs on its legs until they are ready to hatch. Immediately after the eggs have hatched, the adult prawn loses its shell and starts to grow a new and larger one. The prawn bulks up on water to form a slightly larger shell, ensuring space to grow before the next spawning.

The cold-water prawn has a lifespan of up to nine years. The prawn is usually caught when it is around six years old and eight to ten centimetres long, compared to farmed warm-water species that are usually fully grown when they are six months old.

Fishery

Cold-water prawns can be taken all year round, but fishing is limited by the ice conditions, especially in Ilulissat when the Disko Bay freezes. The prawns are caught both inshore and offshore.

Inshore prawn fisheries

Inshore, the cold-water prawns are caught by local fishermen in small vessels. They fish quite close to the shore, but at great depths, to reach the prawns’ seabed habitat. The prawns are caught in a trawl net and hauled on board. Then the prawns are stored on ice for a maximum of four days, or until the fishermen have filled their on-board storage facilities. The catch is landed at one of Royal Greenland's factories, where the prawns’ size and appearance are rated prior to processing.

In Greenland, all catches of inshore prawns are cooked and peeled in the land-based factories.

Offshore prawn fisheries

Offshore fishing for cold-water prawns is also by trawl, but using much larger vessels and trawls. Royal Greenland operates two seagoing trawlers, Akamalik and Qaqqatsiaq, which fish solely for prawns. The trawl is lowered several hundred metres onto the seabed, where the prawns are trapped in the net and hauled on board for processing.

Royal Greenland's trawls are fitted with sorting grids and escape panels that lead any larger fish that have entered the trawl opening back into the sea. Royal Greenland also supports the research and development of less invasive trawling methods with less impact on the seabed and reduced fuel consumption for the fishing vessels.

Read more about Royal Greenland's sustainable fisheries strategies here

In Greenland, it is mandatory to land minimum 25 % of the total catch for on-land processing. Our trawlers unload their catch of prawns to one of our land-based prawn processing factories in Ilulissat or Sisimiut, where minimum 25 % of the catch is processed into cooked and peeled prawns.

The fisheries in Western Greenland, Canada and Norway are all certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council and evaluated to be well-managed and supervised via mandatory catch logs.

Read more about MSC certification here.

Processing

Most of the prawns are processed on board, before being sent directly to our customers. At sea, the trawlers Akamalik, Qaqqatsiaq and Nataarnaq process the prawns immediately after landing their catch. The prawns are sorted, cooked and quick-frozen within a few hours of leaving the water.

Minimum 25% of the catch from the Greenlandic quota is brought ashore for further processing at Royal Greenland's land-based factories in Greenland. 

Prawns from both inshore and offshore fisheries are landed at the land-based factories. Here, the cold-water prawns are quality-assessed and size-graded, before entering the production line. The prawns are then cooked and peeled before they are quick frozen. From the factories, the processed prawns are either shipped directly to customers around the world, or to our other factories for advanced processing and packaging. 

Some of our prawns pass through our processing facilities in Denmark, where they are repacked, brined or subject to modified air packaging. A small proportion of the cold-water prawns are sent to Poland, where they are used as ingredients in ready meals. 

Route to market

After the cold-water prawns are processed, they are shipped to our customers. Cold-water prawns are enjoyed across the world, but with differing preferences with regard to the final product. Consumers in the UK are particularly fond of cooked and peeled prawns, while Sweden has a preference for shell-on prawns. In Japan, the cold-water prawn is considered a delicacy and is also known as "Ama ebi", which means sweet prawn.

Prices for cold-water prawns have increased in recent years, as the quotas have decreased while demand has remained high.

Cold water prawns in the kitchen

The cold-water prawn is consumed throughout the world and is a true delicacy, perfect for the entire family. The prawn is a good source of protein and selenium, low in calories and has a high content of several vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, zinc and iodine. 

The prawn has beautiful pink meat and a firm, juicy texture, with a pleasant ocean flavour, a touch of sweetness and a little shellfish bitterness. Cold-water prawns served shell-on are a crispy bite. The prawn is versatile and can be enjoyed cold or added at the end of preparing a hot meal, to avoid overcooking and to preserve flavour and moisture. The cold-water prawn is best served as the main ingredient in a recipe or as a meal in itself, where its complex flavour is not overpowered and can be fully savoured.

See also

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