West Coast Dungeness Crab Season A Bust

The effects of warmer ocean waters this year continue to wreck havoc across the western United States.

In the latest casualty of an unusually warm Pacific Ocean, the commercial dungeness crab fishing season along much of the west coast will likely remain closed through the end of the year.

California has been hit especially hard with the start of the season still nowhere in sight. In Oregon, officials expect to open the season shortly after the New Year, and in Washington a limited harvest has only begun within portions of the Puget Sound. 

The reason has to do with a toxic algae bloom, which produces domoic acid that makes its way into the crab. The bloom is naturally occurring, most likely caused by warmer seawater as a result of an impending El Nino. 

In California, the crab fishing industry generated $59 billion in sales in 2013-2014, according to Fortune Magazine. But that’s not the only ones who are suffering financially as a result of a shutdown. Seafood processors, wholesale distributors and restaurants have all felt the pain as well. 

As 2015 comes to a close it appears unlikely the season will get started anytime soon, but there are signs the situation is improving. Continuing to monitor the crabs, officials need to see two straight weeks of domoic acid levels below advisable levels before they can open the season again. 

Other effects of this year’s unseasonably warm seawater include greater numbers of shark attacks, a sea loin die off earlier this year and warm water fishing appearing further north than before. Recently northern fur seals were reportedly having trouble this year  as well.

Photo credit: Dreamstime