Reel local – our fresh picks for BC’s best fish markets – We Heart Local BC

Events for December 2022

Live Local: Meet the 2015 We Heart Local Awards Winners
September 22, 2015
Raise your glass: warm up this winter with some of BC’s best local wines and cheeses
November 19, 2015

What makes autumn so delicious? October is prime season in BC for seafood of all kinds, so it’s the perfect time to get familiar with your local fishmonger. Seafood lovers can still enjoy the last of summer specialties like lingcod, sardines and Chinook salmon and it’s also the perfect time to enjoy halibut or tuna.

Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program makes it easy to ensure that no matter where you find your fish, it’s local and sustainable. We talked to Ocean Wise Coordinator Claire Li about how the program works. It’s important to note that the fish supplier partners she names all sell their seafood at farmers’ markets or on fishing wharves — which makes it easy to kickstart your quest for fresh local fish!

We Heart Local: We’re curious: can individual fishing businesses be part of the Ocean Wise program? Do you have any fishing wharves that participate?

Claire Li, Ocean Wise Coordinator: Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program partners with all kinds of businesses that sell seafood. This includes restaurants, retailers, caterers, cooking schools, and suppliers. Fishermen are welcome to join Ocean Wise as a supplier of a primary product. We do not have any fisherman’s wharf partners, but individual fisherman businesses can join. Some examples of fishermen partners are Organic OceanSkipper Otto’sFresh Off The Boat, and F.I.S.H.

WHL: How can consumers find out from fishing boats which fish are sustainably caught?

CL: All Ocean Wise partners, including fishing boats, identify sustainable seafood with the Ocean Wise symbol. If the fishing boat is not an Ocean Wise partner, ask how the seafood was caught, and where it was caught.

WHL:  Where can consumers look up a business to find out if they’re Ocean Wise?

CL: Consumers can check our website for a full list of official Ocean Wise partners or consult the Ocean Wise app, which will be available for download on Apple and Android devices soon.

What’s more, if you’re lucky enough to live on BC’s coast, finding your next dinner might be as easy as taking a walk to your local dock. In many of BC’s coastal towns, you’ll find local fishers pulling up to the fisherman’s wharf (or fish market dock) to sell the daily catch. Most harbour authorities will post information like hours and seasons online, but for more information about what’s available, a good rule of thumb is simply to go down to the dock on a weekend and check out the market. For British Columbians on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, here are three easy-to-reach docks that are a great way to buy the daily catch direct from a local boat.

  •  Steveston Fish Market: This historic fishing village near Richmond is the perfect place to enjoy a weekend at the fish market. With fishing boats on the Fraser River and a lively dock full of restaurants, Steveston also boasts a beautiful walking trail close by the fish market and their historic salmon-cannery-turned-museum. Open seven days a week year-round from 8am-5pm, you’re sure to find fish to suit your fancy.
  •  Comox Fisherman’s Wharf: Comox means “plentiful” in Coast Salish, and it’s no surprise that this Vancouver Island city offers a vibrant fish market as part of their local food offerings. Open whenever fresh catches come in, the Comox fish market features wild salmon, tuna, shrimp, cod, halibut, lingcod, prawns and crab. To receive alerts when fresh fish are available, sign up for their email alerts service and go fast – fishing boats tend to sell out quickly.
  •  Granville Island: Vancouver’s Granville Island Market boasts a number of fish markets, and if you walk to the False Creek Fisherman’s Wharf, you can even buy direct from the boat. Figuring out when boats from fish suppliers like Organic Ocean will arrive with their catch is the tricky part. While your best bet is to show up on a weekend afternoon, you can also get a detailed picture of what’s on offer daily by following them on Twitter.

If we’ve got you curious about what else is in season, check out our What’s In Season guide, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Instagram for recipes and ideas.