What do I need to know before harvesting shellfish?

Here you will find information you need to know before you harvest shellfish in the Gulf Region. This area includes the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence adjacent to the eastern coast of New Brunswick, the Northumberland coast of Nova Scotia and Western Cape Breton Island, as well as all of Prince Edward Island.

Below you will find what you need to know before recreationally harvesting shellfish for your own consumption. Those who wish to harvest shellfish commercially must obtain a permit. For more information on commercial fishing licenses, call toll-free 1-855-634-2355.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Question :

How do I find out where I can go to harvest shellfish? Are there places I cannot go?

 

Answer :

It is your responsibility to find out if an area is closed to shellfish harvesting.

Harvesting shellfish from closed or prohibited areas is illegal. Closed areas are marked by coloured signs installed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

To find out which areas are closed, please visit the Orders Registry page for the Gulf Region, select “Prohibition” under order type and search by keyword the area of interest, for example, Shediac or Charlottetown. You can also consult the real-time map of openings and closures.

For more information or to get clarification on which areas are closed, you can call one of the Conservation and Protection detachment offices listed in the following link and speak to a fishery officer.

Harvesting of shellfish is prohibited at all times within 125 metres (410 feet) of a wharf, and aquaculture operation, for example, aquaculture-growing cages.

 

Question :

What do the coloured signs indicate?

 

Answer :

Coloured signs posted in a shellfish harvesting area indicate the zone is closed and that the recreational harvesting of shellfish is not allowed. The colour of the signs indicates the reason for the closure.

White sign

White sign

White signs indicate an area is closed due to toxins and shellfish is not safe to eat.

Red sign

Red sign

Red signs indicate an area is closed and shellfish are contaminated and not safe to eat.

Yellow sign

Yellow sign

Yellow signs indicate an area is closed and shellfish are contaminated and not safe to eat.

Question :

What shellfish can I harvest recreationally in each province of the Gulf Region?

 

Answer :

  • New Brunswick (eastern coast, from Campbellton to Baie-Verte): Soft-shell clam, bar clam, quahaug, mussel, Atlantic razor clam (razor clam), scallop
  • Prince Edward Island (entire provinceFootnote *): Soft-shell clam, bar clam, quahaug, mussel, razor clam, scallop
  • Nova Scotia (Gulf of St. Lawrence coast, from Tidnish to Cape North): Soft-shell clam, bar clam, quahaug, mussel, razor clam, scallop, oyster

Footnotes

Footnote *

In Prince Edward Island, recreational fishing for quahaugs is not permitted in the East Hillsborough River. Please refer to the following variation order for geographical coordinates of the closed area.

Return to footnote * referrer

 

Question :

Do I need a licence to harvest shellfish recreationally?

 

Answer :

A licence is not required for soft-shell clams, bar clams, quahaugs, mussels or razor clams.

Oysters: A licence is required for this fishery open to residents of Nova Scotia only. The recreational fishery is closed in New Brunswick and PEI.

Scallops: A licence is required for this fishery in the Maritime Provinces.

To obtain a licence, a request has to be made using the National Online Licensing System. If you require assistance, please contact the Client Support by email at fishing-peche@dfo-mpo.gc.ca or toll free at 1-877-535-7307.

 

Question :

What equipment or tools am I allowed to use?

 

Answer :

  • Clam species (soft-shell clam, bar clam, quahaug, razor clam): In the three provinces of the Gulf Region, hand or hand-held tools (rakes or shovels) may be used for these species when not diving.
  • Mussels: These shellfish are hand-picked and hand-held tools such as rakes or shovels may be used.
  • Oysters: They must be harvested using tongs or rakes.
  • Scallops: Scallops must be harvested recreationally by diving underwater.
 

Question :

Why is it important to follow regulations and closures related to shellfish harvesting?

 

Answer :

Recreational harvesters must comply with regulations and orders related to shellfish harvesting, such as area closures, daily catch limits, minimum size limits and seasons. Offenders will be prosecuted. Shellfish harvesting areas are closed to protect harvesters and the public.

As shellfish feed by filtering microscopic organisms from the water, harmful bacteria, viruses and biotoxins can build up in their tissues and may cause illness in people who consume affected shellfish. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada work together to regularly test shellfish areas and to close them when risks are identified.

Eating contaminated shellfish can cause potentially serious or fatal illness. Cooking shellfish does not destroy many of the toxins that may be present in a closed area.

Information on the health risks associated with illegal harvesting can be found here.

Areas which are closed to shellfish harvesting are identified by coloured signs posted by fishery officers with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

 

Enjoy safe shellfish - check before you harvest