A vendor holds up a live crab outside a food stand at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, Calif. Wednesday, March 9, 2016. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

State officials optimistic for Dungeness crab season

The upcoming Dungeness crab season appears to be headed in a good direction and authorities are reminding fishermen to begin checking their safety equipment in preparation for the season, according to the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Coast Guard officials are set to being inspecting crab-fishing vessels next month on Nov. 8, 9 and 10 at commercial fishing ports from Monterey to Crescent City.

The safety checks are part of the Coast Guard’s Operation Safe Crab, an outreach initiative intended to reduce fatalities and accidents during the season.

During the safety checks, Coast Guard personnel check vessels for the required lifesaving equipment, pot-loading practices affecting stability and vessel watertight integrity, according to the Coast Guard.

Commercial crab fishing is an inherently dangerous job and West Coast crabbing vessels reportedly have a high fatality rate, Coast Guard officials said.

In previous years, inspectors have found that emergency radios and life rafts were installed incorrectly. Vessels found with safety discrepancies can be restricted from operation until the discrepancies are fixed, according to the Coast Guard.

The commercial Dungeness crab fishery for Northern California starts on Nov. 15 for the Central Coast region, which includes the coast between Avila-Morro Bay to the mouth of the Russian River, and Dec. 1 for the North Coast, from Fort Bragg to the Oregon border.

Last year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife decided to delay the opening of the previous crab season after high levels of the neurotoxin domoic acid were detected in crabmeat, making it unsafe for human consumption.

An algal bloom off of the Pacific Coast caused the high levels of the neurotoxin, wildlife officials said. The department eventually lifted the closure of the previous commercial and recreational Dungeness crab seasons earlier this year.

Testing for domoic acid happens intermittently throughout the year and increases as the opening of the season nears, Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Jordan Traverso said Tuesday.

While it can’t be predicted yet whether the season will be delayed, Traverso said the department remains optimistic the season will open on time.

“So far, the results are looking good,” Traverso said.

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