Dungeness crabs caught along the coast of California have been determined to be unsafe for human consumption. The news comes right before the start of the state’s recreational crab season, which is expected to be delayed.
The California Department of Public Health has stated that potentially deadly levels of domoic acid have been found inside of Dungeness crabs and rock crabs that have been caught along the coast between Oregon and Santa Barbara County’s southern border.
Based on these findings, the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is advising officials to delay the start of the crabbing season. The office is also recommending that the rock crab fishery be closed until further notice.
Meanwhile, the California Fish and Game Commission is planning to hold an emergency public meeting on the matter at 8am on Thursday in Sacramento.
The regional manager for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Craig Shuman said, “Delaying or closing the season is disappointing, but public health and safety is our top priority.”
Eating toxic crabs can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps and headaches in minor cases. These symptoms can last for days at a time.
In more severe cases, victims can experience permanent memory loss, coma, seizures and even death.
Health officials have said that symptoms of eating toxic crabs usually appear within 24 hours of their consumption. No illnesses have been reported at this time.
Crab season in California was expected to begin on November 15th. Professional crabbers have come to the Bay Area from Alaska, Oregon and Washington as part of the trade.
They usually earn more than half of their annual income from California’s crabbing season. Additionally, restaurants and their customers are accustomed to having crabs on menus during this time of year.
In an average year, crabbers bring in about $60 million during California’s crabbing season. This latest report is likely devastating for both crabbers and their families.
One restaurant on San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf says that they go through up to 60 Dungeness crabs every day during this time of year.
Some people suspect that the toxins may be caused by the particularly warm waters that are the result of this year’s strong El Nino weather pattern and climate change.
Officials have said that they will remove the health advisory once toxin levels in the crabs fall to lower levels.