Wild Oysters Guide for BC – Regulations, Limits, Licenses 2018

This wild oysters guide for BC – regulations, limits, licenses in 2018 will tell you everything you need to know to harvest and forage wild oysters safely, legally, and ethically in British Columbia.

Harvesting oysters from the beaches and coastal areas of British Columbia is one of my favorite wild food pastimes. It’s so strange that the nicest restaurants in Vancouver and abroad serve oysters on the half shell as a luxury food when oysters are literally laying on the ground all over our coast.

However, while wild oysters are delicious and fun to collect, it isn’t easy to get started as an amateur forager and harvester in BC.

It’s difficult to understand the legal regulations, limits, licenses, and other restrictions that come with harvesting wild oysters in BC. Government websites are notoriously difficult to navigate and understand.

I wanted to write this wild oysters guide for BC to walk you through exactly what you need to know and have to collect oysters in the wild, including:

5 Must-Haves To Harvest Wild Oysters in BC

To harvest wild oysters in BC legally, safely, and ethically, you must have 5 things:

  1. A valid recreational tidal fishing license for British Columbia
  2. Know the general regulations for harvesting wild oysters anywhere in BC
  3. Know the collection limits and regulations for oysters for the specific area you’re harvesting in
  4. Know the wild oysters you’re collecting are safe and edible according to red tide, sanitary, and other shellfish closures in the area you’re harvesting from
  5. Know oyster harvesting and foraging best practices

Valid Recreational Tidal Fishing License For BC

You must have a valid recreational tidal fishing license to harvest any wild oysters or other shellfish in British Columbia.

You can read about recreational tidal fishing licenses in BC in this government overview. 

Apply for your recreational tidal fishing license for BC though the Canadian Government website here. 

You can apply for an annual license, multiple day licenses, or a one-day license to harvest wild shellfish for your own personal enjoyment.

Wild food enthusiasts, amateur foragers, and hobbyists should apply for recreational fishing licenses.

Fees differ between residents of BC and non-residents/tourists from outside of BC.

Fishing and shellfish harvesting for commercial or business reasons will require a different kind of license.

You can buy your tidal fishing license online, but you need to have a printed copy of the fishing license with you while harvesting in the wild AKA “the field”.

Wild Oysters Guide For BC – General Regulations

In BC, you are able to harvest unopened wild oysters in the shell and/or shuck oysters where you find them and only harvest the oyster meat.

To maintain the health and habitat of wild oysters beds, harvesters are encouraged to either:

  1. Shuck oysters where you find them and leave the shells behind on the beach or coastal location
  2. Return oyster shells to the beach or coastal location where you harvested them

Regardless, all harvested wild oysters must be in a condition that makes them easy to count and identify until you get to an ordinary residence, such as your home or a rented residence.

This regulations means that any oysters you shucked in the wild should be transported whole, not cut or processed, to prevent people from harvesting over their legal collection limit or the wrong oyster species.

You can also cook wild oysters in the wilderness within your collection limit. This means you can cook and eat oysters instead of bringing them home first.

You can cook wild oysters outdoors, such as on the beach where you found them, as long as you adhere to applicable rules and regulations regarding outdoor fires and/or cooking in the area you’re in.

Wild Oyster Limits and Restrictions In BC Tidal Areas

British Columbia is divided into Tidal Areas by the Government of Canada. Each Tidal Area has different regulations that determine the collection limits for wild oyster harvesting.

You need to know which Tidal Area you’re harvesting from to determine the specific regulations that apply for wild oyster harvesting there.

You need to use the following 7 steps to determine wild oyster collection limits and restrictions in your Tidal Area.

7 Steps To Determine Wild Oyster Collection Limits and Restrictions

  1. Figure out which Tidal Area you’re harvesting oysters from by searching for your location in the search bar (circled in red in the image below). Press enter to search for your Tidal Area. In this example , I will show you how to find the collection limits and restrictions for different wild oyster species found in Powell River.

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2. The search results should return your location under the “City, Town or Landmark” column. Click on the Tidal Area link (circled in red in the image below).

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3. Click on the “Bivalve shellfish” tab in the menu (circled in red in image below).

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4. Scroll down to “Species regulations”. You can see the collection limits for each species of wild oysters found in your Tidal Area (circled in red in image below).  In this example, there are two wild oysters species that can be found in Powell River: Olympia Oyster and Pacific Oyster.

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5. The collection limits can be found under the “Limits” column (circled in red in image below).

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6. Collection limits are divided into (d) daily limit; (p) possession limit; (a) annual limit. These limits are defined in the image below. You need to understand the collection limits and adhere to these limits to harvest wild oysters in BC legally.

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7. You can find the last set of regulations by scrolling down to “Restrictions”. In this section, you will find any additional restrictions that apply to harvesting wild oysters in the Tidal Area (circled in red in image below).

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How To Check For Red Tide, Sanitary, And Shellfish Closures

All wild oysters and other bivalve shellfish in BC could be affected by red tide, sanitary closures, or other shellfish closures.

Before you harvest wild oysters, you need to make sure they’re safe to eat in the location you’re harvesting from.

Failing to check for shellfish closures risks serious consequences, such as paralytic shellfish poisoning and other serious illnesses.

You can figure out whether wild oysters are safe and edible to eat by understanding red tide, sanitary, and other shellfish closures in BC with these step-by-step instructions.

Wild Oyster Harvesting and Foraging Best Practices In British Columbia

Wild oyster harvesting and foraging best practices will differ slightly depending on the location you’re collecting oysters in.

Despite this, the universal best practices in this wild oysters guide for BC should be followed wherever and whenever you’re collecting oysters in the wild:

  • Only harvest as many oysters as you need (less than the maximum regulated limit)
  • Try to shuck oysters and leave the shells where you found them (if this is possible according to the government regulations where you’re harvesting)
  • Leave as much of the environment in the environment — remove as much sand, debris, and water as you can from oysters you take
  • Never harvest a large percentage of total oysters in an area
  • Leave the area you’re harvesting from better than how you found it — minimize your impact on the habitat around you and take away litter if you can

Illustrated Guide to Shuck Wild Oysters

Learn to open harvested oysters quickly by following my illustrated instructions on how to shuck wild oysters.

Bookmark this wild oysters guide for BC for all your future oyster foraging!

Posted by Arielle

Arielle is a passionate urban homesteader and hunter located in Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.

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