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

Lawmakers urge Gov. Brown to declare disaster if Dungeness crab season is canceled

Four California lawmakers are urging Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a disaster that would free up state and federal money for fishermen should authorities cancel this year’s Dungeness crab season all together.

Fishing both recreationally and commercially for the holiday favorite has been delayed indefinitely due to high levels of domoic acid from a toxic algae bloom along the West Coast, but the lawmakers – including Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) – said cancellation of the season would impact coastal communities as well as the state economy.

“While we are hopeful that the situation will turn around and the fisheries can be opened safely and promptly, we remain concerned about the economic consequences of a fishery closure,” reads the letter to Brown, which is signed by Speier and Reps. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), Sam Farr (D-Monterey) and Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara).

Declaring a fishery disaster would enable the use of state and federal resources for fishermen, communities and businesses affected by the potential season closure. Commercial Dungeness crab harvests in California were valued at $60 million last year.

“A closure of this fishery would be devastating for fishermen, who have already been impacted by a poor salmon season this year, which yielded just one third of the average harvest,” the letter states.

The delay in the Dungeness crab season is the first time in recent memory that the start of both recreational and commercial fishing for the crustaceans has been pushed back because of domoic acid.

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.

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