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Environment

Delay for California's commercial Dungeness crab season 'imminent'

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J. Newman, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
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State officials say it's imminent that California's commercial Dungeness crab season will be canceled until further notice. 

It was announced Thursday morning that the recreational season is on hold as well. This follows a warning earlier this week about high levels of a deadly toxin called domoic acid. 

The toxin is produced by a massive and persistent algal bloom in the Pacific Ocean. It's responsible for the high domoic acid levels being found in crabs and other marine life.

Jordan Traverso with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said this event happens every year, but this year conditions are unprecedented.

"The warm water conditions that we're experiencing in the ocean right now, likely due to this El Niño event, is probably what's causing this particular algal bloom to stick around as long as it has and to be as large as it has this late in the season," said Traverso.

This halts business for commercial crabbers, like 40-year veteran Bob MaHarry, who exclusively fishes for crab. He's based in Morro Bay but starts his season in San Francisco.

He said domoic acid testing in crabs is not new, but the levels have never been this high. 

"This is a multi-million dollar fishery for the State of California. It's going to get put on hold," MaHarry said. "That's the correct thing to do. And everybody on my side, fishermen, sport and recreational alike, we're not happy but we also are realistic. This is the only solution."

In addition to losing fishing time, he said it's hard to gain back consumer confidence. 

The crab season restriction will remain in effect until the state determines the levels are safe for consumption.

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