recipes wild food

How to harvest seafood

Mussel bed on a rock in the sea
Home » Recipes » wild food » How to harvest seafood

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

Seafood harvest guide

Live clam on the beach

Have you ever walked past rocks on the sea shore with mussel beds on them?

or seen clams exposed on the beach wondering if you can eat them?

Wild shellfish is something that most people walk past on the seaside regularly without thinking about picking or consuming them.

Why not?

Wild shellfish is an excellent food source. Tasty, sustainable, organic, easy to cook and very good for you!

Here are my top reasons for harvest seafood to eat:

  • Harvest your own shellfish is fun, healthy and very easy to do with no expensive equipment needed.
  • Collecting wild shellfish is one of the easiest foods to find and gather in the wild and therefore a great option when searching for wild food and being self sufficient.
  • Shellfish is super healthy and can easily be made into delicious, healthy meals.
  • The alternative of Buying wild locally sourced seafood is expensive
  • Wild seafood in their natural habitat will be healthier than farmed seafood.
  • It’s a natural and sustainable food option

Because of the above reasons and more there are no better time to search for and harvest your own shellfish to cook and eat.

Gather or harvest seafood involves searching for edible seafoods, such as mussels, clams or abalone (paua) from the beach or rocky sea shores.

picking shellfish from the beach
Harvesting clams from the beach on a low tide
A mussel bed on a rock and two feet next to it
Collecting mussels from the rocks when exposed in the low tide
Close up of three fresh paua in their shells
Freshly caught sea snail abalone (Paua)

Searching for wild shellfish to eat can boost your nutrient intake as well as help you try new and interesting foods and being self sufficient all at the same time.

Follow my easy seafood harvest guide from ocean to plate and you can serve healthy, delicious seafood meals at home in no time
Fresh wild mussels in a bowl
Fresh wild mussels
Hosing down fresh clams in a large net
Cleaning fresh wild clams
5 Freshly chucked paua
Freshly chucked Paua (abalone meat)

In this post I will concentrate on wild mussels, clams and Paua (abalone). I will explain how to find, harvest, cook and serve these wild shellfish so you can enjoy easy, sustainable, gourmet meals at home and other useful information and tips that I have learnt along the way.

There are many more edible seafood you can find on the seaside. This is only the main things we harvest in our area.

Where and how to find seafood:

Wild shellfish usually lives on rocks in the water or the sandy ocean floor, they often get exposed on the beach edge on a low tide.

A mussel bed on a sea rock and a hand next to it

How to harvest mussels

Look for mussels on rocks that are submerged under water on a high tide but exposed on a low tide. When finding a mussel bed simply pull the mussels away from the rocks with your hands and put them in a bucket.

How to harvest clams

Clams lives on sandy beaches. Look for them on a low tide where the beach is under water on a high tide. Dig with your hands or shovel in the sand to harvest clams and other similar species. Sometimes they even sit on top of the sand exposed and easy to collect.

shellfish in a bucket and an esky
Close up of three fresh paua in their shells

Harvesting paua

Paua (abalone) is stuck to the rocks. You need a Paua knife or similar to remove it from the rocks. They often live in deeper water and you need to dive down to collect this highly valued seafood. However you can find them in shallow water too where you can collect them straight from the shore on a low tide.

It’s a fun activity to harvest fresh wild seafood from the beach or the rocks and even better to enjoy a delicious seafood dinner afterwards.

Spagetthi and creamy saffron Paua in a white bowl plate

The catch limit per person in New Zealand is good and it makes it definitely worthwhile. Here you can find New Zealand fishing rules including catch limits of different spices.

Do research beforehand and learn the rules and catch limit for your area. Be sure to only harvest legal species and limits.

Best time to harvest seafood

I prefer late spring, summer and early autumn to gather shellfish in the wild. They are big and juicy then.

In winter the mussels and clams are often more skinny and not quite as good.

Best time of the day is on a low tide, that’s when the shellfish gets exposed and can easily be picked from the shore without getting too wet

How to prepare wild harvest seafood

Preparing and cooking wild Clams

Clams are a delicacy, a seafood enjoyed for their texture and flavor. there are many different species of clams, and they can vary in shape and size.

Because wild clams live on the sandy ocean floor they can contain sand in the shell.

First you need to remove the sand and clean the clam meat before adding it to your meal.

Fresh clams soaking in water in an orange bucket
steamed clams. The clam shell is opening up
de shelling clams. The cleaned clam meat is soaking in salt water

Cleaning: First I cover the clams in salt water and soak them for a few hours to make the clams release most of the sand from their shell. Drain and steam slightly until the shell just opens up.

de shelling clams. The cleaned clam meat is soaking in salt water

Once cooled remove the clam meat from the shell and discard the stomach and guts. Wash the clam meat thoroughly in a bowl of salt water.

The clam meat is now ready to cook.

Cooking: Simply Saute the clean clam meat in garlic and parsley butter and eat them as an appetizer, mix them through spaghetti as a main meal or make them in to clam fritters. Absolutely delicious!

Try my recipe for clam fritters with ranch dressing

frying clam fritters
clam fritters, ranch dip, tomato, avocado and lettuce on the side and two lemon edges on top
Clam fritters with ranch dressing

Clams are a unique shellfish and they are very nutritious. They are flavorful, slightly salty, and the texture is soft, almost buttery.

Preparing and cooking wild mussels

There are several different species of mussels in the wild. The once I usually find and cook are green shell mussels. Green shell mussels are native, big mussels grown only in New Zealand. They are one of the largest mussel species. Other varieties are great too.

Cleaning wild mussels:

First I soaked them in salt water for a few hours to make the mussels release most of the sand from their shell.

Then I scrub them and remove the beard.

Fresh wild mussels in a bowl
how to cook wild mussels:

Wild mussels can have sand and grit in them.

Steaming the mussels first, then rinsing the mussel meat in salt water will reduce the chance of grit ending up on your plate.

steamed mussels with creamy sauce
Mussels cooked in curry, coconut cream and lime. Served with rice. Half a lime and chopped coriander on top
Wild mussels in curry coconut sauce

Try my recipe for wild mussels in curry, coconut and lime

Cooked mussels on a plate

New Zealand green shell mussels are considered a super food. They are highly nutritious and contain anti-inflammatory nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain several key vitamins and minerals.

Searching for and collecting mussels from the beach is an easy and fun activity. It’s a real treat to cook and eat the wild mussels afterwards.

How to prepare Paua (abalone) and cook.

The way I like to prepare and eat our paua and abalone is to relax the shellfish in the fridge in it’s shell for at least one night. Then I just scoop the meat out, remove the guts and its ready to prepare my paua recipes.

Close up of three fresh paua in their shells
Many paua on a wooden bench

Just by relaxing the shellfish overnight is enough to tenderize it.
Some people prefer to bash the meat to tenderize it and would never prepare it without doing so. I guess it’s a personal preference.
Both ways are nice but I really prefer the texture of paua (abalone) when it hasn’t been bashed as it tends to lose all its texture and go to soft.

5 Freshly chucked paua
sliced paua on a chopping board

If I want to eat it the same day and don’t have time to relax the meat, then I put the paua un shucked in a pot, cover with water and boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute then cool. Once cooled I just scoop the meat out and prepare. This method is enough to tenderize it and gives it similar texture as if it was left overnight.

Try my recipe for Sauteed Paua in garlic and white wine

Sauteed sliced paua with cherry tomatoes
Sauteed Paua with white wine, garlic and cherry tomatoes
Paua sauteed with cherry tomatoes and steamed broccoli served on top of spaghetthi
Delicious served on spaghetti

My personal experience

I clearly remember spending time on rocky beaches as a child searching for crabs and mussels under the rocks. I loved it and often spent hours searching and playing on the beach.

The interest has stayed with me and I love seeing my kids enjoying the same activities now. They can easily spend the entire day searching the beach and rocks for shellfish.

Collecting mussels or clams from the beach is now a highlight in my family and so easy to do.

2 kids playing in the distance on a beach

No gear or skills required. Just an exploring mind and a bucket.

Young child sitting on the grass holding up a handful of fresh clams from a bucket

It’s very easy for the kids to get stuck in. The catch limit per person is good and it makes it definitely worthwhile. At the right spots you are almost guaranteed a good feed, which makes it fun for all of us.  

A day at the beach is always a day well spent. The sea air is so good and rejuvenating.

We bring a pic nic and enjoy a great day by the seaside. Sometimes we bring a camping stove and cook the shellfish fresh on the beach.

A dad and two children eating fresh clams on a picnic table

A sustainable food choice

Being outside harvesting food in the wild is amazing! Wild, natural ingredients available for anyone to collect and prepare a meal with. It’s the most natural thing we can do.

Seafood in their natural habitat will be healthier then the farmed alternative. It’s premium, fresh, organic food! The most sustainable seafood is the ones you search for and harvest yourself.

Clam meat in a bowl on a bench, an oven tray with steamed clams next to it. A beer glass and a chopping board with chopped herbs in the back ground

Harvesting, cooking and eating wild shellfish is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to get ingredients and prepare food. Cooking up and eating your gathered shellfish is very satisfying and the best, healthiest and most sustainable seafood to cook and eat.

Sustainable living includes what and how we eat. There are several different options when it comes to sourcing our food ingredients and steps we can take towards a more environmentally friendly way of cooking and preparing food recipes.

clam fritters frying in a skillet frying pan

Gathering your own wild foods to consume is a step in the right direction.

Rules and regulations

Check the rules and regulations in your area for catch limits and legal species

The catch limit per person in New Zealand is good and it makes it definitely worthwhile. Here you can find News Zealand fishing rules including catch limits of different spices.

Do research for your are beforehand and learn the rules and catch limit for your area. Be sure to only harvest legal species and limits.

Search and harvest yours now

If you like eating healthy, locally sourced, organic food. Searching for and harvesting it yourself is a great way to guarantee yourself exactly that. Harvest your own wild seafood is a great option to start with when becoming self sufficient because it’s so easy to do, can improve your health and no equipment necessary.

Don’t hesitate any longer. Do research and find out how to find wild shellfish and what’s available where you live. You can do it! and you will love it!

Hunter gatherer food is healthy, natural and sustainable. Best of all is all the amazing delicacies that we get to eat. It’s free of charge and a fun activity to do and with food prices increasing everywhere it makes sense to start searching for and harvesting your own amazing food products.

You might also like to read



Blogger, foodie, mum, gardener, qualified chef. I'm passionate about food, cooking and being food self sufficient. I hardly ever by fresh food. Instead I grow, gather, fish and hunt. The blog is about what I do on my lifestyle block and my recipes.

You may also like...

1 Comment

  1. Such an insightful and helpful post about harvesting seafood. My boyfriend loves seafood so definitely coming back to this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *