In a big blow to anglers and seafood lovers, California officials are poised to close both the sport and recreational Dungeness crab fisheries because of tests showing persistently high levels of a dangerous neurotoxin in the succulent crustaceans.
The anticipated closures would at least delay the start of the recreational crab season on Saturday and the commercial season set to start Nov. 15 in most of the state.
The sweeping move follows an advisory issued Tuesday afternoon by the California Department of Public Health warning people not to eat Dungeness or rock crab caught along much of the state’s coastline after the latest round of testing showed continued high levels of a powerful, naturally occurring neurotoxin called domoic acid in the crab meat and viscera, sometimes called crab butter.
The Office of Health Hazard Assessment later issued a recommendation to state Fish and Wildlife recommending a fishery closure from the Oregon border to the southern edge of Santa Barbara County. Santa Barbara has been a domoic acid hot spot.
“These are incredibly important fisheries to our coastal economies, and fresh crab is highly anticipated and widely enjoyed this time of year,” Craig Shuman, marine regional manager for California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a written press release. “Of course, delaying or closing the season is disappointing. But public health and safety is our top priority.”
State health officials started testing crab in September after domoic acid poisoning began showing up along the West Coast, closing part of the Washington state crab season over the summer.
California Fish and Wildlife officials warned last week that continued problems put the start of crab season here at risk.
Public health officials said Tuesday that recent tests found “dangerous levels” of the naturally occurring neurotoxin in Dungeness and rock crabs caught between the Oregon border and the southern Santa Barbara County line.
The toxin poses a “significant risk to the public if consumed, the state Department of Public Health said in a statement.
The effects of domoic acid poisoning can, in mild cases, include vomiting, diarrhea, cramps and dizziness. More severe cases can lead to trouble breathing, heart trouble, seizures, permanent loss of short term memory and coma, the health officials said. Death can also result.