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Health, Science and Technology

UPDATE: State delays crab season over persistence of deadly toxin

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Kirsten Macintyre, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
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UPDATE: Thursday, November 5, 2015 at 9:55 a.m.

The California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-0 on Thursday morning in favor of an emergency rulemaking to delay recreational Dungeness crab season by up to 180 days.

Biologists tested crab from eight ports, including Morro Bay, and determined that domoic acid levels are exceeding the State’s action level.

Closure of the fisheries will remain in effect until the state concludes that domoic acid levels no longer pose a "significant risk to public health."

The move prohibits recreational take and possession of all rock crab from ocean waters, including bays and estuaries, north of the Ventura/Santa Barbara county line.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife was then directed to maintain a list of closed ocean waters. That list is to be updated each Wednesday.

Recreational Dungeness crab season was set to begin on Saturday, November 7, 2015.

A hotline and website are set up to handle questions: (831) 649-2883

Original Story:

The State of California warned people on Tuesday not to each crab caught off the Central Coast and points north to the Oregon border.

The Department of Public Health said the crab meat may contain dangerous levels of domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin. Recent test results show persistently high levels of the acid in both Dungeness and rock crab.

The warning's southern most point is at  the Santa Barbara/Ventura county line.

Commercial Dungeness crab season begins Nov. 15 and recreational Dungeness crab season begins a little more than a week earlier on Nov. 7.

According to Public Health, the acid is caused by algae bloom and the environmental conditions that support its growth are impossible to predict. It is unknown when the levels found in crab are expected to subside.