Seafood Buying Tips

Buy fish and seafood direct from the fishermen at the Comox Harbour Marina! When the fishing boats come in, it’s time to feast on the large variety of species available from the cool ocean waters of  British Columbia. Common species sold are salmon, tuna, shrimp, cod, halibut, lingcod, prawns and crab. Come down and support our local fishermen and purchase wild fish fresh of the boat.

The Dockside Sales area is located on the cross floats on the east side of the Harbour at the bottom of the ramp.   Free convenient parking spaces are available to the public for buying fish.

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High quality fresh seafood is a great addition to healthy living.  Buying fresh off the boat ensures the product is of the highest quality.  Shrimp, Prawns, Halibut, Cod, Salmon and Tuna are available in season.  Vessels sell out quickly so make sure you come down early.

Fishermen: There is a high demand for fresh off the boat product in the Comox Valley.  Out of town vessels are welcome to participate.  Call the office at 250-339-6041 prior to coming in to ensure that space is available and to have your product posted on the website and on the fish sales line.  Emails are sent out to all those that have signed up for updates to the fish sales.

Click on the link for the  CVHA Fish Sales Directive and Acknowledgement And Consent Form.

Purchasing Tips

The Sales Float is provided for the benefit of the public and the fishers who sell their catch. Comox Harbour Authority does not regulate prices or product quality. As all transactions are private dealings between the buyer and the seller, it is a “buyer beware” environment. However, below are a few tips to help everyone make the right choice when purchasing fresh seafood.

As a general rule, buy from a reliable vendor who keeps high standards of cleanliness and has a good knowledge of the product and how to handle it. It is also a good idea to ask the vendor where and when the product was caught. Only buy seafood that is displayed on ice and keep your purchase cold until you get home. Leaving seafood in the car on a hot day speeds up spoilage and may make it unsafe to eat.

Fresh or Frozen?

In the fishing industry, the term “fresh” generally means that the product has not been frozen since it was harvested from the ocean and delivered to the customer. The term “flash frozen at sea”, “FAS”, or more commonly, “frozen,” means that the product was frozen within hours of it being harvested. So, which is better?

Salmon on ice

Fresh: Most people are under the impression that “fresh” fish are always better than frozen fish. While it is true that a fish that is cooked the same day as it was caught will have the best flavour and overall quality, “fresh” in this industry does not always mean “fresh.” Again, what the term “fresh” actually means in the fishing industry is that the product has never been frozen and has instead been kept in a chilled state until it is sold. This is fine if it is only for a few days, but the quality of the product will decrease with age. For this reason, it is always a good idea to ask the vendor where and, most importantly, when the fish was caught. If they are unable to answer, buy from another vendor.

Frozen: Most people are also under the mistaken impression that frozen fish is always inferior to “fresh” fish in quality and taste. Fish that are “flash frozen at sea” are frozen solid within hours of being harvested, preserving their flavour and quality. Frozen fish should be literally hard as rock and should show no signs of previous thawing. So in reality, as long as they aren’t thawed and re-frozen, fish that is “flash frozen at sea” can be just as high quality as truly fresh fish.

So really, the issue about fish being “fresh” or “frozen” isn’t as important as people think. Buyers should be far more concerned about the level of knowledge the vendor has about the product and the cleanliness of the vendor’s vessel and equipment when deciding where to buy seafood.

Keep the above information in mind, and refer to some additional tips for different species below.


Appearance: There should be no black spots or patches on shrimp (except between roughly the beginning of June and the end of September every year, when shrimp will have a black spot on the back of their heads – this is their egg sac and the phenomenon is perfectly normal and safe to eat). The meat, however, should never have black spots. The shells of raw shrimp may be orange, pinkish or light pink. When cooked, the shell turns red and the meat takes on a similar reddish tint. Be careful of headed shrimp – some people remove the heads to hide things like the onset of deterioration (black heads) and heavy bacterial activity from poor washing and handling practices.
Touch: Flesh should be firmly textured, not “squishy.”
Smell: Shrimp should have a mild odor.


Buying crab is pretty simple – only buy live crab as deterioration is very rapid at death (live crab move their legs). Refrigerate live crab in well ventilated containers covered with a damp cloth or paper towels. Do not place live crab in fresh water to hold before cooking them as this will kill them instantly.