HALF MOON BAY (CBS SF) – There was some bad news Tuesday for the local Dungeness crab fishing fleet hoping to make up for the disastrous 2015-2016 season.
With the official start of the season just days away, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced its director has asked for a delay in the opening in a section of the fishery along the Sonoma/Mendocino Coast because of elevated levels of domoic acid found in crabs harvested for testing.
The closure would be for the commercial Dungeness crab fishery between Point Reyes and the Sonoma/Mendocino county line.
It would also be for the commercial rock crab fishery north of Pigeon Point in San Mateo County.
“Given the very difficult season endured by commercial crabbers and their families last year, we were hopeful to open all areas on time this year,” said Director Charlton H. Bonham in a press release. “Fortunately, domoic acid levels are much lower than this time last year and, despite this action, we are optimistic we will still be able to have a good season.”
The recreational season for Dungeness crab opened on Nov. 5 with a warning from the California Department of Public Health to recreational anglers not to consume the viscera of Dungeness crab caught north of Point Reyes.
State and federal laws prohibits the commercial distribution of seafood products that contain domoic acid levels above the federal action level of 30 parts per million in the viscera.
CDFW officials said the agency would continue to coordinate with health officials to test domoic acid levels in crab along the coast to determine when the fisheries can safely be opened.
Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin that can accumulate in shellfish, other invertebrates and sometimes fish. It causes illness and sometimes death in a variety of birds and marine mammals that consume affected organisms.
At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures and can in some cases be fatal.
Last year, a massive algal bloom containing domoic acid delayed the opening of the local sports fishery until February and the commercial season until March.