Crab harvesting information

General reminders

Eating contaminated shellfish can be life threatening!

Always check Marine Biotoxin and Sanitary Contamination closures for the area where you are harvesting. These closures can change often and quickly during the season.

Know before you go:

  • Always check the latest closures and restrictions for your area. In many areas of British Columbia, fishing is not allowed or is restricted. It is illegal to harvest shellfish from closed or contaminated areas
  • You must have a tidal waters sport fishing license to harvest shellfish in salt water, including tidal water boundary areas in rivers
  • Identify your catch. It is illegal to possess female Dungeness or Red Rock crabs
  • Advisories are put in place for shellfish contaminated by dioxins and furans. The restrictions apply to recreational harvesting of certain species at specific sites, usually around industrial sites. In crab, some kinds of contamination are primarily concentrated in the hepatopancreas. While this portion of the crab is not usually eaten, some individuals may consume it. Consumption advisories pertain to this portion of the crab only. You will find dioxin consumption advisories on the area page for the location you intend to fish
Fishing gear
  • Crab harvesting is only legal by use of trap, ring net, dip net or hand picking
  • You may use up to 2 rings, dip nets or traps in combination
  • Use of snares, rakes, spears or other pointed instruments to fish for crab is illegal
Rot cord

Trap requirements

  • Crab traps must have an opening in the top or side wall that is sewn shut with a length of untreated cotton twine, no greater than #120 (often called rot cord)
  • When the twine rots, it must produce an opening of at least 7 cm x 20 cm (rectangle) or 11 cm x 11 cm (square)
  • On traps with a rigid frame and a hinged lid, the lid must be secured by a loop of the same type of twine so that the lid will open freely when the rot cord breaks. There must not be any other fastenings that interfere with the lid opening
  • This regulation exists so that if a trap is lost and the twine rots, captive crabs can escape and the trap can no longer catch fish
  • You may use mechanical devices to recover your traps
Marked buoy

Lines and buoys

  • All shellfish traps must be marked with a floating tag or buoy that has your name on it
  • Use highly visible buoys, large enough to stay afloat in tides and currents in your fishing area. Only 1 name can appear on the buoy attached to your trap(s). Names and phone numbers must be legible and visible (at least 7.5 cm high)
  • Do not use: Gear marked with another fisher’s name. Avoid plastic jugs, bottles and Styrofoam blocks that may deteriorate or sink, or are hard to see or mark
  • 2 crab traps attached to 1 ground line may be marked with only 1 buoy.
  • Make sure your buoy line doesn’t float and become tangled in boaters’ props. Either use sinking line or, if you use floating line, attach a weight to keep the extra line under the water at all tide levels (without sinking the buoy)
  • Navigation channels must be kept clear of lines and buoys. Use sinking line and/or weights, or coil excess line to keep it below the surface during all tide levels without sinking the buoy. Any fishing gear that interferes with safe navigation can be removed under the Navigation Protection Act
  • Be aware of hook and line, downrigger and trap gear entanglement risks in the vicinity of the UVIC Venus project in Pat Bay, Saanich Inlet. For more information, visit: http://www.oceannetworks.ca/installations/notice-mariners
Catch handling
Dungeness crab and Red Rock crab measurement

You must measure your crab immediately

Identification of female Dungeness or Red Rock crabs Identification of female Dungeness or Red Rock crabs

It is illegal to possess female Dungeness or Red Rock crabs

  • Check all your gear carefully and remove and release all bycatch: You must release incidental catch alive, to the place where you caught it, in a way that causes the least harm to the fish
  • You must measure your crab immediately. Use a caliper device to measure in a straight line through the widest part of the shell. A Dungeness crab must measure at least 165 mm. A red rock crab must measure at least 115 mm. You must immediately release all undersized crabs
  • You must immediately release all female Dungeness and Red Rock crabs. The female’s abdomen has a wide “beehive” shape; the male’s has a narrow “lighthouse” shape. You’re not allowed to possess female Dungeness or Red Rock crabs
  • Release crabs gently into the water, as close to the surface of the water as possible. Throwing them into the water from the height of wharves and docks harms the crabs and is a violation
  • Fishers are asked to voluntarily release soft-shell crabs. A soft-shell crab will yield less meat and of a lower quality compared to when the shell hardens. The careful release of soft-shell crabs allows the crab to be harvested later when the meat is of a higher quality
Packaging and transporting

The carapace (shell) must remain attached

  • So that the size of your crab can be checked, the shell of any sport-caught crab must stay attached to the body until the crab arrives at your ordinary residence

Labelling your container or cooler

  • When individuals are transporting or shipping catch they must package their catch separately and only have one name per package. However, they may share a container. It is recommended that the contents (number of fish, species, and number of packages) be listed on the outside of the container to facilitate inspection.
  • It is recommended that you store and transport your catch in containers and packages intended for food.
Crab Watch Program

Crab Watch Program

  • At some provincial parks, a crab watch program has been put into effect to protect undersized crabs. By harvesting only legal size crabs, the breeding stock is protected.
  • Report violators by calling 604-607-4186 in Vancouver, or the toll-free Observe, Record and Report number: 1-800-465-4336.