Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner file photo

Coastal closure announced ahead of commercial crab season start

A portion of the state’s coast will be closed for commercial Dungeness crab fishing due to high levels of domoic acid found in the area, California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials announced Tuesday, a week before the commercial Dungeness crab season is set to begin.

With the commercial Dungeness crab season starting on Nov. 15, the CDFW has decided to close the coast between Point Reyes in Marin County and the Sonoma/Mendocino county line for the fishery.

CDFW officials have also closed the commercial rock crab fishery for the coast north of Pigeon Point in San Mateo County.

The closure announcement comes after crabs recently collected in the mentioned areas were tested and showed elevated levels of domoic acid, according to CDFW officials.

High levels of the neurotoxin were blamed for crab fishery closures from Santa Barbara to the Oregon state line last year, which lasted through March and caused millions of dollars in lost revenue for fishermen.

An algal bloom off of the Pacific Coast promotes the high levels of the neurotoxin, which accumulate in the crabmeat, making it unsafe for human consumption.

“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,” CDFW Director Charlton Bonham said in a statement. “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 closures of the mentioned areas will remain in effect until the California Department of Public Health and the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment determines that domoic acid levels no longer pose a significant threat. The CDFW will continue to test domoic acid levels in crabs to determine when the fisheries can be opened safely, according to CDFW officials.

While the neurotoxin is creating a holdup in the commercial Dungeness crab season, the recreational Dungeness crab season opened Saturday with no closures in effect.

The recreational season’s opening however came with a warning from the CDPH, advising recreational crab consumers not to eat the viscera of the Dungeness crab caught north of Point Reyes. The crab’s viscera, or internal organs also known as butter or guts, may contain much higher levels of domoic acid than the crab’s body, CDFW officials said.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard began their annual safety checks ahead of the upcoming season, checking crab vessels for required lifesaving equipment, pot-loading practices affecting stability and vessel watertight integrity, according to Coast Guard officials.

The checks, which will go through Thursday, are made in an attempt to reduce casualties connected to crab-fishing. Vessels found with serious safety discrepancies can be restricted from operating, Coast Guard officials said.

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