Language selection


Recreational shellfish harvesting rules and regulations in B.C.

You must follow all rules and regulations while harvesting shellfish and only harvest in areas that are open to harvesting. It is both illegal and unsafe to eat bivalve shellfish harvested from a closed area.

Before you harvest

Before you harvest

For planned and seasonal closures, see:

During and after your harvest

During and after your harvest

It is dangerous and illegal to harvest shellfish in prohibited areas. Prohibited areas are:

  • clam and oyster aquaculture sites
  • 125 metres (440 feet) or less from a wharf, aquaculture operation or floating accommodation
  • 300 metres (1,000 feet) or less from sources of pollution, sewage or wastewater treatment plants

Check your gear carefully:

  • 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 animal
  • Identify your catch and make sure that you don’t keep more than your daily limit for any species

Check our packaging and transport rules to make sure you handle your catch safely and legally.

Crab rules

Crab rules

You must immediately measure your crab across the widest part of the shell using calipers and release all undersized crabs.

The minimum harvest size is:

  • 165 mm for Dungeness crabs
  • 115 mm for red rock crabs
Minimum size for Dungeness and red rock crabs
Minimum size for Dungeness and red rock crabs

It is illegal to possess female Dungeness, king and red rock crabs. Females can be identified by the wide beehive shape on their abdomen (males have a narrower lighthouse shape). Female Dungeness, king and red rock crabs must be released immediately.

Identifying female and male crabs
Identifying female and male crabs

Always release crabs gently into the water as close to the surface as possible to prevent harming them. Throwing them into the water from the height of a wharf or dock is prohibited.

Soft-shell crabs

We encourage you to voluntarily release soft-shell crabs. These yield less meat that is lower-quality compared to hard-shell crabs. Releasing them allows them to develop higher-quality meat that can be harvested later.

European Green crab

If you find an invasive European Green crab on the east coast of Vancouver Island or the mainland of B.C., please leave it where it is but report it to us by sending a photo with details of its location to

Crab watch program

Some provincial parks run a crab watch program to protect undersized crabs. If you see a violation, please protect crab breeding stocks by reporting it to:

  • Vancouver: 604-607-4186; or
  • Toll-free Observe, Record and Report line: 1-800-465-4336
Prawn and shrimp rules

Prawn and shrimp rules

It is illegal to:

  • retain more than 125 prawns per day
  • retain prawns carrying eggs under their tail. Handle your catch with care and release all egg-bearing females back to the water where you caught them
  • harvest prawns in glass sponge reefs and some marine protected areas

It is also illegal to retain rockfish caught in prawn traps. Use a descending device to release a rockfish gently back to the area where it was caught.

We encourage you to:

  • release smaller prawns
  • take only what you need to conserve prawn and shrimp populations. The daily catch limit should not necessarily be your target
  • haul your gear slowly to allow smaller prawns and bycatch to escape the trap while in the water
Other species-specific rules

Other species-specific rules

The following are managed as shellfish in B.C.:

  • bivalves such as clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and cockles
  • snails including whelks, tritons and periwinkles
  • moon snails
  • crustaceans such as crabs, shrimp and prawns
  • other invertebrates such as octopus, squid, sea cucumbers and sea urchins


Northern abalone are an endangered species and it's illegal to harvest them. All incidentally caught abalone must be released alive to the place where you caught them in a way that causes the least harm to the shellfish.


Clams are bivalve shellfish. Eating bivalve shellfish harvested from a closed area is unsafe. Check the area that you are planning to harvest in to make sure that it is open every time you go out.

The total combined daily limit of all species of clams harvested is:

  • 24 in the Pacific Rim National Park
  • 60 in all other parts of Areas 11 to 27
  • 0 in Areas 1 to 10

The minimum harvest size is:

  • 35 mm for manila or littleneck clams
  • 55 mm for butter clams

We encourage you to fill in holes to protect exposed juvenile clams.

If possible, don’t dig clams unless you intend to keep them. If you rebury cockles or butter, littleneck or manila clams, we recommend you bury them:

  • clams25 cm deep for butter clams or 5 cm deep for other species
  • in the same hole where they were found
  • with the short side facing down and the long side facing up

Olympia oysters

Olympia oysters are endangered, and it is illegal to harvest them. To avoid inadvertently harvesting Olympia oysters while you are harvesting Pacific oysters, do not harvest any oyster less than 5 cm in diameter. All incidentally caught Olympia oysters must be released alive to the place where you caught them in a way that causes the least harm to the oyster.

Welks, snails and moon snails

Welks, snails and moon snails can accumulate toxins and pollutants from contaminated bivalves. We recommend you do not harvest them from areas closed to bivalve harvesting. Make sure that you check for both contamination closures and regulatory openings, closures and limits before you harvest.

Date modified: