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Crab season opening date up in the air

Independent Coast Observer of Gualala, California

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Don't break out the crab crackers yet: The California Fish and Game Commission meets Thursday, Nov. 5, at 8 a.m. for an emergency meeting in Sacramento regarding the 2016 recreational Dungeness crab season set to open Sunday, Nov. 8.

The sole agenda item, save for roll call and adjournment, is the adoption of proposed emergency regulation to close recreational and Dungeness crab and rock crab fisheries due to elevated levels of domoic acid.

In addition, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday it will act on its authority to delay the start of the commercial Dungeness crab season, scheduled to start Sunday, Nov. 15, in most of the state.

The California Department of Public Health sent out a press release Tuesday, advising the public to avoid eating Dungeness and rock crab caught between the Oregon border and Santa Barbara due to dangerous levels of domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin.

The cause of the increase in the toxin is a particularly large and persistent algae bloom, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Jordan Traverso of CDFW said warmer ocean water temperatures associated with the El Nino event California is experiencing is likely a major contributing factor to the size and persistence of the bloom.

Domoic acid accumulation in seafood is a natural occurrence related to a particular single-celled plant called pseudo-nitzschia. The conditions supporting the growth of the plant are impossible to predict, CDPH said, and it is unknown when the levels found in the crabs will subside.

Symptoms of domoic acid poisoning can occur within 30 minutes to 24 hours after eating toxic seafood. In mild cases, symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache and dizziness. Symptoms may disappear after several days.

In severe cases, an individual may have trouble breathing, experience confusion, disorientation, have cardiovascular instability, seizures, excessive bronchial secretions, permanent loss of short-term memory — also known as Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning — coma or death.

To date there have been no associated illnesses with this event, according to CDPH.

Should the recreational season begin, new regulations for daily bag limits and sizes for fishers in Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Monterrey Counties will kick in. Fish and Game adopted regulations in early October that limit sport fishers to 10 Dungeness crabs that are a minimum of 5.75 inches wide. Under the new regulations, fishers must also wait seven days after the season opens before deploying crab traps. This is designed to prevent taking Dungeness crab under the guise of rock crab fishing before the start of the season, according to a press release from the Commission.



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Original Publication Date: November 6, 2015



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