Start of recreational Dungeness crab season delayed

The of the Dungeness crab season was delayed earlier this month after high levels of domoic acid was detected in the crustaceans. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner, 2012)


San Francisco Dungeness crab lovers will have to wait to taste the holiday favorite this year.

The California Fish and Game Commission on Thursday voted unanimously to delay the start of the recreational Dungeness crab season up 180 days after dangerous levels of domoic acid were detected in the crustaceans. The recreational Dungeness crab season was scheduled to start Saturday.

Commercial fisheries, which are also affected by domoic acid levels, could also be delayed or restricted due to the toxin, a decision that will be left to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The commercial Dungeness crab season is set to open Nov. 15.

“Signs are pointing to that happening within a couple days,” said Jordan Traverso, a department spokesperson.

The delay marks the first time in recent memory that the start of Dungeness crab season, both recreationally and commercially, has been pushed back because of domoic acid.

Recent test results have revealed high levels of domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin, in Dungeness and Rock crabs crabs caught between the Oregon border and the southern Santa Barbara County line. The California Department of Public Health issued a health advisory against eating the crabs Tuesday.

Domoic acid poisoning in humans can trigger vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache and dizziness. Symptoms can occur within 30 minutes to 24 hours after eating toxic seafood, and typically disappear within several days.

The commission also directed the fish and wildlife department to keep a list of closed ocean waters. The public can call the department’s hotline at (831) 649-2883 to obtain the current status of ocean waters.

It remains unknown whether the crab season will be extended due to the delayed start.

“At this point I’d say anything’s possible,” Traverso said.

Crab seasons tend to be cyclical, with the last few years considered strong in the Bay Area after a 40-year rough patch that began in the 1950s. Demand for Dungeness crab – a particularly popular dish in the Bay Area – generally peaks around Thanksgiving, and then drops off until just before Christmas.

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