Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner file photo

Commercial Dungeness crab season to open March 26

The commercial Dungeness crab season will open in the Bay Area on March 26 after enduring an unprecedented delay because of health risks posed by unsafe levels of domoic acid in the crustaceans, state wildlife officials announced Friday.

Recent tests show the levels of domoic acid in crabs caught off on the California coast south of the Mendocino-Sonoma County line no long pose a risk to human health, allowing authorities to lift the ban on commercial fishing of Dungeness crab, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The ban on recreational fishing was lifted last month.

Closure for the Dungeness crab commercial and recreational fisheries north of the Mendocino-Sonoma County line remain in effect.

The closures have impacted thousands of fishermen and others who depend on Dungeness crab for their livelihood.

Such workers received a pinch of help from The City last month when Mayor Ed Lee announced the Port of San Francisco’s Crab Industry Relief Plan, which waives fees and rents for three months for the berthing, storage and leasing for commercial crab boat owners and receivers in San Francisco, as the San Francisco Examiner previously reported.

Fisherman's Wharf businesses affected by closure of local Dungeness Crab season from The San Francisco Examiner on Vimeo.

Additionally, state leaders including Reps. Jackie Speier and Jared Huffman earlier this month introduced the Crab Emergency Disaster Assistance Act of 2016, which would appropriate $138.15 million for disaster assistance to California Dungeness and rock crab fishermen and related businesses.

Officials with the California Department of Public Health and the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment strongly recommend that consumers avoid eating the crab’s viscera, or internal organs also known as butter or guts, because they may contain much higher levels of domoic acid than the crab’s body. Domoic acid is a neurotoxin that can be harmful to humans if eaten.

Consumers should also discard water or broth used to cook the whole crab and avoid using it to make sauces, broths, soups or stews, as domoic acid from the viscera may leach into the cooking liquid, causing potential harm to the consumer, according to public health officials.

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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