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article imageNorthern California crab season to open as toxic algae retreats

By Nathan Salant     Mar 25, 2016 in Food
San Francisco - Northern California crabbers and crab lovers start eating it up at midnight when the long-delayed commercial crab season opens.
Improved water conditions south of the Sonoma-Mendocino County line enabled state wildlife officials to lift the commercial fishing ban that was imposed last year after high levels of the domoic acid neurotoxin were found in the crustaceans.
“We’re thrilled to see that the progression of domoic acid in the crab has declined to the point that we can have a commercial crab season,” said Jordan Traverso of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
“We were worried that there was not going to be any season at all,” she saic, accor.
Restrictions are being lifted as of midnight tonight.
“There’s no more domoic acid at this point,” Traverso said.
“The algal blooms are on their way down -- what’s out there is left over from before and hasn’t fully metabolized.”
But crabbing is still banned from Mendocino County northward where, Traverso said, “there are still some crab coming in hot.”
Plus, officials warn, it is advisable not to eat the crabs' internal organs, or viscera, and to discard water used to cook the crabs and not re-use it for sauces or soups.
Domoic acid can cause seizures, coma and even death when consumed by mammals -- including humans, officials said.
Higher levels of the neurotoxin began to be noticed last year and are believed to be associated with the El Nino weather pattern that has dumped huge amounts of rain in drought-plagued California this year.
The poisonous red tides were seen across California, Oregon and Washington -- the largest area ever seen on the Pacific Coast, officials said.
Area crabbers expressed relief at the development, which had forced Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a fishery disaster and free up emergency loans to the region's fishermen.
“We're very happy to be going back to work -- we hope everybody gets their big pot of boiling salt water going,” said Larry Collins, president of the Crab Boat Owners Association.
“I hear they are big and hard and full of meat and beautiful-looking and safe, he said, "it's time to let the crab party begin.”
Dungeness crab season runs until June 30, the newspaper said.
“This has been a very difficult season for hardworking Californians who have suffered significant financial hardship due to this natural disaster,” said Charlton Bonham, the state's Fish and Wildlife director.
Many crabbers have already given up to prepare for salmon fishing season, which begins May 1
But Traverso said the late opening of the season should still bring some well-needed financial relief to crabbers,
“Some of them are done and have already written off the crab season and are moving on, but some of them are out there chomping at the bit to get in the water,” she said.
“We’re very happy to be able to have some part of the season that’s salvageable,” Traverso said.
California's commercial crab fishery generates $60-90 million in a normal season, the newspaper said.
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