Crab Season Endangered by Toxins Again

Dungeness crab (Justin Sullivan / Getty)
Justin Sullivan / Getty

The discovery of toxins from algae blooms pushed California health officials to recommend an indefinite delay of the commercial Dungeness crabbing season in the Golden State on Wednesday.

The same situation affected crab lovers last year, delaying the start of the Dungeness crab season and shutting down rock crab fisheries until levels of the toxin present in the ocean water could be reduced to normal.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the recommendation came from California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, and affects a 200-mile stretch of Northern California (from Humboldt Bay to Point Reyes), marking a second year that toxic blooms have hit the West Coast’s crabbing industry.

Dungeness is reportedly a staple around the holiday season.

Approximately half of the Dungeness sampled in the listed areas reportedly tested over the limits for domoic acid, a toxin that stems from algae blooms and that can cause food poisoning, including death. Domoic acid accumulates in shellfish, sardines, and anchovies.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, domoic acid was the same toxin responsible for an outbreak of human poisoning that occurred in Canada in 1987 following consumption of contaminated blue mussels [Mytilus edulis].

Oregon shut down all crabbing for a stretch of coast north of the California border earlier this week because of the toxin.

Health officials also recommended that recreational crabbers avoid eating the guts of Dungeness crabs, which are a traditional delicacy during this time of year.

In addition to experiencing greater algae growth, California’s warmer waters have also attracted more marine life including sharks.

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