Water & Drought

California bars commercial crab fishing amid toxin scare

As expected, California’s top fisheries official on Friday delayed the start of the commercial Dungeness crab season in response to a massive coastal algae bloom that has infected crabs with a toxin that is potentially fatal in humans.

Charlton Bonham, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, on Friday issued an emergency order to put a hold on California’s commercial Dungeness crab season, which was scheduled to open Nov. 15. Bonham’s order also halted commercial rock crab fishing, which has a year-round season.

“Crab is an important part of California’s culture and economy, and I did not make this decision lightly,” Bonham said in a prepared statement. “But doing everything we can to limit the risk to public health has to take precedence.”

The closure extends from the Ventura-Santa Barbara county line north to the Oregon border. It follows Thursday’s decision by the state Fish and Game Commission to enact similar restrictions on recreational rock and Dungeness crab fishing.

Fisheries officials say they’ll continue to work with health officials to test the domoic acid levels in crab along the Pacific coastline. Once the bloom subsides and crabs flush the toxins from their systems, state officials say they will reopen the fisheries.

Ryan Sabalow: 916-321-1264, @ryansabalow

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