SAN FRANCISCO - The Bay Area's long tradition of turkey and crab may be put on hold this year if warm El Nino waters of the Pacific promote toxic algae growth.
Though crab for Thanksgiving is odd to many other Americans, Bay Area folks take it seriously.
Crab season is scheduled to begin on Saturday, November 7th, but, the issue has now made its way directly in to the state's food testing laboratories.
World famous Scoma's on San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf catches much of its own seasonal crab.
"We have been looking foreword eagerly to the season. We've been retrofitting the boat right now, putting a new engine in and new systems to be able to keep the crab fresher," says Gordon Drysdale, Scoma's Culinary Director.
This concern is no matter for him to ignore. "If there's any chance, no matter how great or small, that we may endanger health, we may have to go to Plan B," says Mr. Gordon.
Drysdale's Plan B would be to import an unexpected abundance of King Crab from the ocean off Antarctica.
This year, the season may, emphasize "may" be canceled because of a natural toxin, demoic acid, found this summer in one of the biggest algae blooms ever found in the warm Pacific Ocean.
Diatoms are nothing more than algae plants.
"What happens is basically is that there are some single celled diatoms that create a neurotoxin that's quite harmful in large quantities. Let me stress that: large quantities," Melissa Schouest, and animal curator at the Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39.
Schouest says, mussels and clams eat the them and in turn, crabs eat the mussles and clams which then can enter the crabs' systems.
Humans. sea mammals and other sea life can be poisoned by eating the tainted crab.
"But the animals do shed this as well. So, they can eat it and it can become a high level. But then, on the flip side of that, it can then shed out f their system and become safe to eat once again," says Ms. Schouest.
California heath officials have taken crab samples and are currently testing them for the toxin.
"This comes up every once in a while. We had it a few years back and I think it might have held the season opener up for a couple of weeks," says Tom Creedon, President of Scoma's, who has been in the seafood fishing and cooking business going on four decades.
"To my knowledge, we've never lost a season because of that or for any other reason," says Mr. Creedon.
So, the reality, early in the week is: until the test results are back, the crab season is on. And, only when those tests are finalized will be really know if it's on or off.