A Field Guide to Seashells & Shellfish of the Pacific Northwest

by Rick M. Harbo


"Why, then the world's mine oyster, Which I will with sword open."

—William Shakespeare


A user-friendly guide for all ages!

There are few more enjoyable ways to spend a relaxing afternoon than at the seashore collecting ornate seashells. But there is no need to fly away to some exotic tropical locale to begin the fun. If you are in the Pacific Northwest, you will find local beaches as rich in fascinating treasures as any place on earth.

Here is a user-friendly guide to the most common seashells and shellfish found on Pacific Northwest beaches, written and photographed by marine biologist Rick Harbo, one of the region's most outstanding marine life experts. Those whose interest in shellfish is mainly gastronomic will also find this guide an essential tool.

Do you know?

Fun facts about shellfish

What is a shell?

Shells found lying on the beach are what remains of the protective covering of soft-bodied animals that do not have bones. A shell is actually an external skeleton that protects the soft-bodied...

Shellfish and the First Nations

Shellfish were very important in the daily life and culture of the First Nations people who live along along the coast. Different shells were used to ornament clothing, as tools and utensils, and in...

"Time and tide wait for no man"

Shells are found on most beaches at the water's edge, at the base of rocks on the shore, or washed up high on the beach. Many shellfish that live in the intertidal zone are commonly found at low...


Clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, cockles


Univalves have a single shell, which may be conical, spiral or flattened in shape. They are also called gastropods ("belly foot"), a reference to the fact that the animals move around on a large soft...

Other Shells

Along with bivalves and univalves, there are other species of shellfish that you might encounter on your beachcombing expeditions....