Toxins Postpone Dungeness Crab Fishing Season

Dungeness crab could be off the menu this year in San Francisco and elsewhere as the California crab fishing season has been postponed due to the discovery of a dangerous neurotoxin. 

Warmer ocean waters this year have allowed the toxin to flourish, making the dungeness crab in California dangerous to eat. Once the water temperature lowers, the toxin should subside.

But until water temps decrease, fisherman won’t be able to start the season as they normally do in November and recreational crab hopefuls must also keep their pots out of the water.

Not only is the toxin an issue for ocean ecology, it’s also an economic issue as dungeness crab represents a $60 million per year industry. Fisherman like Frank Sousa, understand it’s out of their hands. 

“This is out of the fishermen’s hands. We have to wait until the product is safe,” Sousa told CBS News. “I have kids and I wouldn’t want to bring that product home to them so I can’t bring it home to anybody else.” 

The toxin is known as domoic acid and it’s linked to algal blooms that proliferate in warmer water. If ingested the toxin is known to cause seizures, coma and even death, and it covers about 40 miles wide and at least 45 feet deep along the Pacific Coast of California. 

“This is serious,” said Dave Bitts, president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We don’t need to have anyone get sick from eating a crab that we knew might have had something wrong with it. That is the worst thing we can do for ourselves.”

Bitts said he anticipated the season won’t open again until January, but it all depends on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.