Shellfish and Seaweed Harvest Rules

3 Steps to Safe and Legal Shellfish Harvest - It's your responsibility!

1. Know the Rules (You could get a ticket)
Is the harvesting season open? Read the rules for seasons, size, and bag limits. Always check the toll free WDFW Emergency Shellfish Rule Change Hotline (866) 880-5431. Current harvesting season information can always be found by using the clickable map on the WDFW website at

2. Pollution Closures (You could get sick)
Does the beach meet standards for healthy eating? Some closures are shown on the map on page 125. For more pollution closures visit the Washington Department of Health website at, call (360) 236-3330, the Shellfish Safety toll-free Hotline at (800) 562-5632, or the local county health department.

3. Marine Biotoxin and Vibrio Closures (You could get sick or die)
Is there an emergency closure due to Shellfish Poisoning (DSP/PSP/ASP) or Vibrio bacteria? Check the DOH website at, call (360) 236-3330, or the Shellfish Safety toll-free Hotline at (800) 562-5632.

NOTE: Emergency rules may occur throughout the year and will supersede the current fishing rules. Changes can be found by calling the Shellfish Rule Change toll-free Hotline at (866) 880-5431, contacting statewide customer service, or by visiting the WDFW website at

WATCH: Recreational Shellfish Harvesting - How to be safe, legal, and have fun.


A Combination or a Shellfish/Seaweed License is required for all shellfish (except crawfish ) and SEAWEED harvest. A catch record card, and endorsement is required to fish for DUNGENESS CRAB in Puget Sound, see Recreational Crab Fishing.

Designated Harvesters

Persons with a disability must have a designated harvester card issued by WDFW if using another harvester to assist them with their catch. The person harvesting the catch on behalf of the licensee with a disability must be in possession of the designated harvester card while assisting the person with a disability. Both the digger and the person with a disability must be licensed. The licensee is also required to be in the direct line of sight of the designated harvester who is harvesting shellfish for them. If this is not possible, the licensee is required to be within ¼ mile of the designated harvester who is harvesting shellfish for them.

Safe Handling Practices

  • Water color does not indicate SHELLFISH safety.
  • Rinse your catch in salt (not fresh) water before leaving the beach, quickly cool your catch on ice or in a refrigerator, and cook as soon as possible.
  • Wash all SEAWEED before eating.
  • Cook shellfish thoroughly before eating.
  • Cooking, rinsing, or freezing DOES NOT destroy all pollutants. CRAB can also concentrate pollutants in their internal organs (crab butter). Clean CRABS before cooking. Eat only the meat.

Shellfish Safety

Eating contaminated shellfish or seaweed can cause serious illness or death
The only way to be safe is to "Know Before You Dig." Check the Department of Health (DOH) website, or call the local health department. For shellfish safety closures call the Shellfish Safety Hotline at (800) 562-5632.

Don't harvest in areas that are polluted. It can make you sick
Pollution can come from many sources like sewage drain pipes, failing septic systems, farm practices, wildlife, and pet waste.

Don't harvest in areas with marine biotoxins (PSP/ASP) or Vibrio closures
You could get sick or die.


  • Can make you sick or cause death
  • Can't be destroyed by cooking or freezing
  • Are produced by algae that usually can't be seen
  • Do not turn water red like the old name suggests

VIBRIO BACTERIA: In the summer, sea water often has high levels of naturally occuring bacteria
Unlike biotoxins, these bacteria can be killed by cooking. To avoid getting sick, DOH advises that you COOK ALL SHELLFISH thoroughly.

For more information on PSP, ASP and Vibrio bacteria, visit the DOH website, call the main office at (360) 236-3330, or contact the local county health department.

Possession Limit

One daily limit in fresh form. Additional shellfish may be possessed in frozen or processed form.

Marine Preserves & Conservation Closures

For all Shellfish Species, see Marine Area maps for closures pertaining to the following areas:

MARINE AREA 7: San Juan Islands Marine Preserve.

MARINE AREA 9: Edmonds Public Fishing Pier, Brackett's Landing Shoreline Sanctuary, Keystone Conservation Area, and Admiralty Head Marine Preserve.

MARINE AREA 10: Elliott Bay Public Fishing Pier, Orchard Rocks Conservation Area, Carkeek Park, Golden Gardens, Discovery Park, Richey Viewpoint, Emma Schmitz Memorial, Lincoln Park, and Eagle Harbor.

MARINE AREA 11: Des Moines Fishing Pier, Les Davis Fishing Pier, Colvos Passage Marine Preserve, City of Des Moines Park, and South 239th Street Park, Saltwater State Park Marine Preserve.

MARINE AREA 12: Sund Rock Conservation Area, Waketickeh Creek Conservation Area, and Octopus Hole Conservation Area.

MARINE AREA 13: Saltar's Point Conservation Area, Titlow Beach Marine Preserve, and Z's Reef Marine Preserve.

Tideland Ownership

Most Puget Sound, Hood Canal, Grays Harbor, and Willapa Bay beaches are privately owned. SHELLFISH and SEAWEED may not be taken from private beaches without the owner's or lessee's permission. Private tideland owners and lessees, and members of their immediate family (grandparents, parents, spouse, siblings, children, and grandchildren) are exempt from personal use daily limits when taking CLAMS, OYSTERS, and MUSSELS harvested for their own personal use from their own tidelands. Daily limits apply for all other shellfish, all other people, and all other beaches. Everyone harvesting shellfish in excess of the daily limit from private beaches for presumed commercial purposes needs a shellfish certification from the Department of Health (see RCW 69.30.010(8)).