Pacific Oysters: A Vancouver Island Delicacy

Delicious Pacific Oyster Recipes For You to Try

Pacific oysters are abundant around the coastline of Vancouver Island, which is great news for those who enjoy harvesting and eating them. Shellfish lovers on Vancouver Island are lucky to have easy access to a variety of shellfish, including the Pacific oyster, which is recognizable by its large, rough and pale greyish-white shell.

First imported into British Columbia in the early 1900’s to be grown in aquaculture farms, pacific oysters began growing in the wild soon after. The oysters grow well on rocks in estuaries and intertidal areas. Because oyster beds grow well in shallow areas, they’re easy for recreational harvesters to find.

Pacific Oysters are a Healthy and Tasty Choice

Pacific oysters

Pacific oysters remain hugely popular locally and across Canada thanks to their fresh flavour, which can range from sweet and lightly briny to watermelon or cucumber flavoured. The umami (a.k.a. savouriness) and flavour they take on depends on where they grow. Pacific oysters are a very healthy choice, packing tons of vitamins and minerals in each bite.
Among the nutritional benefits of oysters are:

  • Low in fat and calories
  • Low in cholesterol
  • High in protein and iron
  • High in omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, zinc and vitamin C
  • High in vitamin B12

Harvesting Pacific Oysters in BC

Although finding pacific oysters is relatively easy, there are some rules and safety precautions to consider before you start harvesting. The BC Centre for Disease Control guide to safe shellfish harvesting is a great starting point for useful information.

Red Tide and Biotoxin Risk from Oysters

Oysters are a bivalve mollusc, meaning that they eat by filtering microscopic plankton out of the water. During this process marine biotoxins, bacteria and viruses can build up inside the tissue of the oyster, which can cause severe illness in humans if eaten.

Red Tide, which is named because the excess of algae can make the water look red. It’s a harmful algae that can contaminate shellfish and is associated with Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP), a potentially fatal disease in humans. 

Fisheries and Oceans Canada monitors biotoxin levels in the waters around Vancouver Island and issues closures in areas that exceed safe limits. Check the shellfish harvesting status map before travelling to harvest oysters, and look out for signage placed at any closed location. The shellfish harvesting map also indicates areas that are aquaculture farms or aboriginal land which cannot be used by recreational harvesters. 

Other Useful Tips for Oyster Harvesting:

Before you head out to harvest your oysters, also consider the following:

  • In BC you need a tidal waters fishing license before you can harvest any oysters or other shellfish for food. There are daily limits on the number of oysters you can take
  • Be prepared to transport and store your catch properly until you are ready to eat them 
  • Make sure the oyster is fresh before you eat it. The oyster shell should close if lightly tapped and it should smell fresh, not sulphuric

Enjoy These Delectable Pacific Oyster Recipes

Now you have your fresh, healthy oyster harvest, you’ll need to shuck them to get at the nutrient-rich meat inside the hard shell. If you don’t know how to shuck an oyster, grab an oyster knife and check out this simple step by step guide. Once your oysters are ready, you can enjoy them raw or in these delicious pacific oyster recipes:

Try a variety of toppings for raw oysters

Pacific oysters on the half shell

Oysters are probably best known for being eaten raw and on the half shell. Impress your crewmates with a selection of toppings like:

  • Shallot mignonette – ½ cup finely diced shallots stirred into ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • Asian inspired – 3tbsp soy sauce, fresh grated ginger and finely chopped green onion
  • Italian style – Balsamic vinegar, olive oil and fresh ground pepper
  • Some like it hot – A splash of hot sauce and a squeeze of lime (you could even add a drop of tequila!)
  • Simply – Add a squeeze of lemon juice or fresh grated horseradish

Use your imagination to mingle flavours and textures. You might just come up with a crowd-favourite!

Try Preparing Oysters Hot

Oysters do double-duty because they’re also delicious when cooked. This is always a good option for anyone unsure of raw oysters. Try these cooked oyster recipes:

Baked on the Half Shell with Cheese and Spinach

Ingredients:Pacific oysters with spinach and cheese

  • A dozen pacific oysters 
  • 5oz softened cream cheese
  • ¼ cup frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
  • 2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan
  • Optional – 1/4tsp chilli flakes


  1. Preheat oven to 450°℉
  2. Set shucked oysters on the half shell on a baking tray
  3. In a bowl mix the cream cheese, cheddar, spinach, garlic and chilli flakes if using
  4. Place a spoonful of cheese mix on each oyster and top with grated parmesan
  5. Bake 8-10 minutes until golden brown

Oyster Stuffed Beef Burgers (Carpetbagger Burgers)

Funny name, absolutely scrumptious burger!


For burger patties:

  • 1lb ground beef
  • ½ onion
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • Seasoning to taste

For the filling:

  • 4 rashers bacon, crumbled
  • 1 cup fresh oysters, removed from the shell and drained
  • ½ cup chopped mushrooms
  • A dash of each: olive oil, white wine, cream


  1. To make burgers, mix ingredients in a bowl then shape into 8 thin rounds
  2. Add olive oil to a pan and sauté oysters and mushrooms until soft. Drain any excess liquid then add a splash of wine and cream and crumbled bacon. Bring to boil, stirring then remove from heat
  3. When filling is cool, spoon 1 Tbsp onto the centre of 4 of the burger patties. Cover with the other 4 burgers and press the edges together to prevent leaking.
  4. Grill until cooked and serve in rolls with your favourite toppings 

Find The Perfect Yacht and the Perfect Place to Moor at Van Isle Marina

After a busy day harvesting pacific oysters, Van Isle Marina in Sidney, BC, is the ideal spot to moor and enjoy your catch.  Our world-class marina has 500 berths and offers short and long stay moorage options to suit your needs.

Don’t have your own boat to find the best pacific oyster harvesting spots? Consider purchasing a new or used yacht or boat from our Van Isle Marina Yacht Sales team. Take a quick look at what is currently available, then contact us to make an appointment for a viewing. 

Happy oyster harvesting!