Earlier this fall, the California Department of Health released a statement that could end a massive industry in California and possibly ruin your holiday meals. The advisory stated that both California Dungeness and Rock Crab were tainted with unusually high levels of a specific toxin that could prove to be deadly if ingested by humans. Elevated levels of Domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin found off the coast of California, have tainted crustaceans along the coast extending south of California’s border from Oregon to Santa Barbara county. Bodega Bay the sight of a local crab fishing fleet remains silent without the normal chatter of crab season as the fishing fleet has moved to Alaska for King Crab season.
It appears that a large bloom of Pseudo-Nitzschia Algae is the primary cause for the large amounts of Domoic acid in California’s surrounding coastal environments. According to the health department, it is “unclear” when the toxins danger will subside and crab season will have the opportunity to re-open.
This is a devastating blow to California’s crab fishing fleet, which was valued at $60 million, not including retail sales. In light of the discovery of the Domoic toxin, the California State Department of Fish and Game has voted to postpone the opening of the recreational crab fishing season. Moreover, the California Department of Health suggested that ingestion of Domoic acid could result in headaches and vomiting, and in severe cases lead to seizures or death. Both Oregon and Washington are in the process of shortening their crab fishing seasons because of the outbreak.