(Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner, 2012)

Commercial Dungeness crab season opens along coast of Marin, Sonoma counties

The commercial Dungeness crab season opens today between Point Reyes in Marin County and Salt Point in Sonoma County, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Thursday.

The 50-mile area had been closed because of elevated levels of domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin, and the fishery north of Salt Point to the Humboldt Bay entrance will remain closed until further testing of acid levels show it is safe.

Low levels of domoic acid can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans and at higher levels can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures and in some cases can be lethal.

Last fall and winter, domoic acid along the coast from Santa Barbara and the Oregon state line closed the Dungeness and rock crab fisheries.

State and federal law prohibit the commercial distribution of seafood products that contain domoic acid levels above the federal level of 30 parts per million in the viscera, or guts. That caused a delay or closure on Nov. 8 of the Dungeness crab season north of Point Reyes and the rock crab fishery north of Pigeon Point 50 miles south of San Francisco.

The crab fishery between the north jetty of Humboldt Bay and the Oregon state line opened on Thursday, and the recreational Dungeness crab season opened Nov. 5 with a warning to avoid consuming the internal organs of Dungeness crab caught between Salt Point and the north jetty at Humboldt Bay.

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