Recreational shellfish harvesting

People living and visiting coastal British Columbia have a unique opportunity to harvest clams, mussels and oysters almost year round.

Is the area open for harvesting?

Before you harvest you must check to ensure the areas you wish to dig for clams and collect oysters are open for harvesting.  There are two primary reasons a beach might be closed, one is a sanitary closure and the other is a Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) closure.  It is essential that you check each time just prior to harvest as the closures can be updated at any time.

There are many shellfish aquaculture farms along the coast and harvesters should familiarize themselves on the location of these as all shellfish on these sections of beaches are private property and cannot be harvested without the owner’s permission.  In most cases the boundaries of these are marked with red concrete markers or there are signs on the beaches.  If you have any doubt about the location of these farms, contact your local Fisheries and Oceans Canada office.

What species can I harvest and how much?

There are a number of different shellfish that you can harvest from the beach and some that you should leave behind.  The most popular species to harvest are little neck and manila clams and pacific oysters.  Information on all of these can be found in the Tidal Water Sport Fishing Guide.   This publication can be found at many tackle shops or downloaded online.  It contains a variety of information including fishing regulations, licence information, species identification and responsible fishing practices.

How do I transport, store and cook my product?

The British Columbia Center for Disease Control has produced a brochure on shellfish safety that provides harvesting, transport, storage and cooking advice.

What are recreational shellfish reserves and where are they located?

Despite the increasing demand for commercial use of the coastline, there are still readily accessible beaches available to the public for recreational shellfish harvesting opportunities.  In most cases, recreational harvesters will share these beaches with commercial wild harvesters and First Nations, who harvest for food, social and ceremonial purposes.  In some cases there are sections of beach that are recognized and set aside primarily for their recreational potential while also recognizing First Nations Food harvesting rights.  These areas are called Recreational Shellfish Reserves.