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article imageNorthern California crabbing industry gets OK to resume harvest

By Nathan Salant     Feb 13, 2016 in Environment
San Francisco - Northern California's crabbing fleet could return to Pacific Ocean waters as early as next week after state regulators approved the catch as safe to eat, three months after the traditional start of the annual season.
Officials with the California Department of Public Health said Thursday that its most-recent tests of crabs in San Francisco Bay, Half Moon Bay and Monterey revealed that levels of domoic acid, a potentially deadly neurotoxin detected in the seafood late last year, had “declined to low or undetectable levels.”
“Recent testing has indicated that the Dungeness crab caught in those areas no longer poses a significant risk of domoic acid,” the department's food safety chief, Patrick Kennelly, told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
The lifting of the crabbing ban on Saturday applies only to recreational fishing at this time but the ban on commercial crabbing could also be lifted next week when state wildlife officials meet to discuss the development, the newspaper said.
As an extra precaution, officials advised residents to be sure to remove the crabs' guts before cooking and to boil or steam the crustaceans, not fry or broil them.
Water used to boil or steam crabs should be immediately discarded and not reused, the newspaper said.
Rock crabs are still unsafe to eat, officials said.
“It’s encouraging, very encouraging,” said Dante Serafini, owner of the Old Clam House restaurant in San Francisco who has been serving his customers crab from Oregon and Washington instead of California.
“The thing is, the crabs are very plump because they’ve remained in the water,” Serafini said.
“So, we’ll get the best crabs we’ve had in years,” he said.
But it may be too late in crabbing season to save it for the hundreds of crabbers who would normally be deriving a major portion of their incomes from the crab catch.
“Some fish for other things as well, and have chalked this (crab) season up to a loss,” Jordan Traverso of the state Dept. of Fish & Wildlife told the newspaper.
“But others want the season to open as soon as possible," he said.
Early in the week, California Gov. Jerry Brown asked U.S. President Barack Obama to declare the crab fishery a federal disaster, making at least some crabbers eligible for federal aid.
Brown said the industry lost $49 million as a result of the toxic algae bloom that impacted the crab.
Domoic acid can cause memory loss, seizures and even death in people who consume it, the newspaper said.
More about Dungeness, Crab, Season, Toxin, Pacific
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