Shellfish: Points to Remember
- Harvesting shellfish? Check openings, closures and limits in the area you intend to harvest.
- Paralytic Bivalve Shellfish Biotoxin (PSP, ASP, DSP) and Sanitary Contamination Closures
- Prior to fishing: purchase a Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence
- Shellfish identification
- Types of shellfish contamination
- Myths and facts about red tide
- Prawns spawn! Expect a variety of prawn life stages every season!
- Recreational prawn fishing. What to expect?
- Prawn and shrimp closures
- The harvesting of abalone, an endangered species in British Columbia, is prohibited.
- Marking, buoys and buoy lines
- Crab gear
- Shrimp and prawn gear
- You may not spearfish or use chemicals to harvest octopus.
- Shellfish includes all aquatic invertebrates including crabs, clams, mussels,
scallops, oysters, cockles, sea urchins, prawns and shrimp. Squid, sea
cucumbers, and octopus are also managed as shellfish in British Columbia.
- Harvesting shellfish from clam or oyster aquaculture sites is prohibited
without permission from the lease holder.
- Special limits apply for shellfish in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
- It is illegal to harvest shellfish from
closed or contaminated areas.
- Bivalve shellfish includes clams, oysters, mussels and cockles. It is very important before harvesting these species to ensure that there are no Red Tide and/or Sanitary Contamination closures in the area in which you are harvesting. These types of closures change VERY OFTEN and QUICKLY in season
Handling your catch
Incidental catch must be released alive, and in a manner that causes it
the least harm to the place from which it was taken.
Crabs must be measured immediately and undersized crabs must be
immediately released gently to the water. Throwing crabs into the
water from elevated heights of wharves and docks is harmful to crab
and a violation.
Bivalve shellfish that you harvest may be shucked or cooked while in the
field (e.g., on a beach), however they must remain in a condition where they
can be readily counted and identified until such time as they are consumed
or arrive at your ordinary residence. Crabs must have their carapace (shell)
attached so they can be readily counted, measured and identified until such
time as they arrive at your ordinary residence.
For conservation purposes, fishers are asked to voluntarily release
prawns carrying eggs under their tail.
Never hang your bivalve shellfish off docks or the side of a vessel when
traveling, as the waters you may be in could be contaminated.
Maa-nulth Treaty Lands
In 2006, the governments of Canada and British Columbia signed an historic agreement with the Maa-nulth First Nations. In accordance with that agreement, some sites in Areas 23 and 26 are restricted to shellfish harvesting by Maa-nulth Treaty members only. Detailed maps are linked at
Sponge Reefs and Corals Advisory
Sponge reef communities in British Columbia are ‘living fossils’. With their communities dating back approximately 9,000 years, individual sponges can survive for up to 450 years. It is recommended that fishers avoid fishing trap gear for crab, prawn, shrimp and octopus in areas where sensitive habitats for sponge and coral are found. To help protect sponge or coral communities please move to another location when you recover your trap gear and find remnants of sponge or coral attached.
- To protect cloud sponge reefs in Saanich Inlet, fishers are requested to avoid fishing trap gear in waters less than 40 m deep at Henders on Point, Willis Point, Christmas Point, McCurdy Point; at the mooring buoy northwest of Senanus Island; at Repulse Rock; at the point sout h of Misery Bay; and adjacent to the Bamberton cement plant.
- In Area 25, a sponge reef and coral forest is located at Tahsis Narrows. Fishers should avoid setting trap gear or anchoring in the vicinity of Mozino Point in waters less than 80 m in depth.
- In Area 29 there are a number of isolated sponge reefs. One is approximately 12 km offshore of Sturgeon Bank at: 49º09.5’N 123º23.0’W at 160 to 220 m depth.
- Sponge reefs are also found in Hecate Strait, Queen Charlotte Sound and Howe Sound, usually in waters from 140 to 240 m in depth
- Date Modified: