Dungeness crab season begins with shellfish health safety warning

Photo by alvin matthews on Unsplash

The Dungeness crab season opens Saturday with some regulations in specified zones and a shellfish safety notification between Sonoma County and Point Reyes in Marin County, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said Friday.

People should be wary of consuming the viscera, or internal organs, of crabs caught between the Sonoma/Mendocino county line and Point Reyes as the public health officials recently detected toxic levels of domoic acid in crabs from the area.

The best way to prevent exposure to domoic acid, the health department advises, is to discard the viscera and rinse out the crab’s body before cooking, then discard all liquids the crab was cooked in.

Symptoms of domoic acid poisoning can appear within 24 hours after eating a contaminated crab. Mild cases might include vomiting, diarrhea and headaches, while severe cases could bring respiratory issues, heart instability, seizures, memory loss, coma or death.

Crabbers are free to use crab traps, hoop nets and snares from the Oregon border to the Sonoma/Mendocino county line and south of Monterey County.

Those using traps cannot use more than 10, and their traps must be serviced every nine days, per the CDFW’s recent regulations. Crabbers using traps must also carry a Recreational Crab Trap Validation, available for purchase on CDFW’s webpage.

Due to potential entanglement of humpback whales and sea turtles, the use of crab traps is prohibited between the Sonoma/Mendocino county line and Lopez Point. The ban could be lifted under the CDFW director’s discretion.

CDFW and CDPH officials will continue to test crabs in the area until domoic acid levels decline to stable amounts.

More information on health advisories can be found on the CDFW website, as well as a domoic acid FAQ.

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