Shellfish harvesting information
Eating contaminated shellfish can be life threatening!
Always check marine biotoxin and sanitary contamination closures for the area where you are harvesting. Closures change frequently throughout the year. It is illegal to harvest shellfish from closed or contaminated areas.
- Check the area you intend to fish for regulations and restrictions - individual species limits apply
- Know the location of area closures and find out what fishing activities are permitted - in many areas of British Columbia, fishing is not allowed or is restricted
- Shellfish safety tips
- 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. Shellfish include all aquatic invertebrates: clams, cockles, crabs, mussels, oysters, prawns, scallops, sea urchins, and shrimp. Octopus, sea cucumbers and squid are also managed as shellfish in British Columbia
- Special limits apply for shellfish in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
- Harvesting shellfish from clam or oyster aquaculture sites is prohibited
- Sportfishers! The catch limit for prawns is 125 per day.
Notes on specific shellfish
- It is illegal to keep Olympia oysters
- Intertidal clams: Expect your catch success to vary
- The harvesting of abalone, an endangered species in British Columbia, is prohibited. All areas are closed for conservation purposes
- Be aware of permanent prawn closures in glass sponge reefs and some marine protected areas
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, intertidal bivalve harvest areas in Area 23 and Area 26 are set aside for the use of Maa-nulth First Nations members only.
- Only fish offal, herring, mackerel, northern anchovy and Pacific sardine may be used as bait. No other finfish may be used as bait
Lines, buoys and floats
- 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 one name can appear on the buoy attached to your trap(s). Printing on buoys 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
- 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 Ocean Networks Canada research equipment in various tidal water locations around BC. For more information, visit: Notice for Mariners (oceannetworks.ca)
- You may use mechanical devices to recover your traps
- You may set multiple traps on a single ground line following the line and marking requirements outlined in the table below:
|Line and marking requirements for combining traps|
|Single trap||1 floating tag or buoy that has your name on it.|
|Two traps||Single ground line marked with 1 floating tag or buoy that has your name on it.|
|Three traps or more
Note: Max. 2 traps for crab harvesting
|Single ground line. Both ends of the ground line require a floating tag or buoy that has your name on it.|
- Planned change for April 1, 2023: Floats attached to prawn and shrimp traps must be round (spherical) in shape and a minimum of 27cm in diameter. Typically these are 'Scotchman' style floats which can be found at most tackle retailers
Notes on specific shellfish
- It is illegal to use any mechanical apparatus or dredge for harvesting clams
- Clam harvesters are encouraged to fill in holes to reduce predation on exposed juvenile clams
- Learn about crab fishing gear
- You are not allowed to use sharp-pointed instruments, snares, hand pumps or chemicals to harvest octopus
Shrimp and prawn
- When you set your traps remember that your daily catch limit is not a fishing target and prawns are seasonally variable and short-lived. Take only what you need
- You may harvest shrimp only by means of traps, ring nets, or spear while diving
- The maximum number of shrimp and prawn traps you can fish is 4 (4 traps or 4 ring nets, or a combination of these).
- A maxiumum of 4 traps is allowed on a single ground line with a floating tag or buoy required at both ends
- 2 cm (3/4 in) mesh, or 2.5 cm (1 in.) from knot to knot, will catch a good size range of prawns and allow smaller prawns to easily escape
- You should use rot cord on all prawn traps (this recommendation may soon become a requirement). Create an opening in the top or side wall of your trap that can be sewn shut with a single strand of untreated cotton twine no greater than #120. The opening should be large enough so that if the trap is lost and the twine rots, captive prawns are able to escape
- Hauling your gear slowly allows smaller prawns and bycatch to exit before traps are brought on board
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.
- Never hang your shellfish catch off a dock or over the side of a boat when travelling as the water could contaminate your catch.
- Learn about handling crab catch.
- For conservation purposes, fishers must release prawns carrying eggs under their tail (egg-bearing females).
- Fishers are asked to voluntarily relase smaller prawns
- Many rockfish populations are depressed and must be released from prawn traps
Packaging and transporting
Do not hang your bivalve shellfish off docks, or off the side of a vessel where travelling, as the waters you are in could be contaminated.
- Bivalve shellfish that you harvest may be shucked or cooked while you’re in the field (e.g., on a beach). However, they must stay in a condition that makes them easy to count and identify until they arrive at your ordinary residence
- 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 is eaten or 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
Seasonal prawn closures
Seasonal closures for prawn and shrimp
This information is provided for reference only
Always check the area you intend to fish for regulations and restrictions before you head out. Forecast closure dates are subject to change and may not reflect current regulations.
Decisions are made in season. In the spring and fall we take samples to make sure there are enough spawning females in the water. Decisions about fishing closures are made based on the results of this sampling. Reminder: fishers must always release prawns carrying eggs under their tail (egg-bearing females).
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Fall closures and pulse fishing
In Saanich Inlet, Stuart Channel and Alberni Inlet, “pulse” fishing are implemented in the following areas after Labour Day weekend to increase prawn escapement and prawn abundance.
- September 7 to September 15
- October 1 to October 15
- November 1 to November 15
- December 1 to December 15
- January 1 until further notice
Depending on the results of the spawner index testing in the fall, we close the following areas from January 1 - March 31 and re-open them on April 1. These 3 month winter closures protect large, mature egg-bearing females as their eggs prepare to hatch.
- Subareas 13-1, 13-12 to 13-17 (Quadra/Cortes Islands)
- Subareas 15-1, 15-2, 15-3 (Powell River/Lund)
- Subareas 16-1, 16-2, 16-5 to 16-10, 16-11, 16-16 to 16-18 (Malaspina Strait/lower Jervis Inlet and Sechelt/Salmon Inlets)
- Subareas 17-5, 17-10 to 17-13, 17-15, 17-16, 17-18 (Nanaimo and portion Stuart Channel)
- Subarea 19-7 to 19-12 (Saanich Inlet)
- Subarea 23-1 to 23-4 (Alberni Inlet/Barkley Sound)
- Subareas 25-1 to 25-5, 25-8, 25-16 (Tahsis/Muchalat Inlets)
- Subareas 28-3 (portion Howe Sound)
Parts of Stuart Channel, Alberni Inlet and Saanich Inlet may continue "pulse fishing" (closed in the first half of the month and open in the second half of the month):
- January 1 to January 15
- February 1 to February 15
- March 1 to March 15
Recreational prawn and shrimp fishing is typically closed in the following areas for 1 week in spring to do spawner index testing.
- Subareas 17-5, 17-6, 17-9 (Stuart Channel)
- Subareas 19-7 to 19-12 (Saanich Inlet)
- Subareas 23-1 to 23-3 (Alberni Inlet)
- Date modified: