Emergency ruling closes commercial crab season due to toxins

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife made an emergency ruling Friday to close commercial Dungeness crab season. The decision comes a day after the state Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to delay recreational Dungeness crab fishing season due to unsafe levels of toxins stemming from a West Coast algae bloom.

Charlton H. Bonham, the department’s director, cited risk to public health as the reason for closing the season, which was scheduled to open November 15th.

The emergency ruling, like the recreational prohibition, includes commercial take and possession of all Dungeness and rock crab from ocean waters, bays and estuaries north of the Santa Barbara-Ventura County line. 

In severe poisoning cases, the neurotoxins can cause seizures, coma or death.

The commercial ban will remain in effect until the director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), in consultation with the director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), deem the acid levels, leading to the neurotoxins, to be safe.

Officials say algae blooms are normal, but that this year’s has been excessive and is linked to warmer ocean waters due to El Niño.