SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Health officials say another swath of California’s coast has been cleared for the catching and eating of Dungeness crabs because they no longer show high levels of a marine toxin.
Public Health Officer Karen Smith on Friday lifted a health advisory for the popular crustaceans in Sonoma County that had been in effect since November.
Last month the ban was lifted from Monterey County to Pt. Reyes north of San Francisco. Now the ban remains in place only for the coast north of Sonoma County.
The ban came after testing showed unhealthy levels of domoic acid, a toxin that can cause gastrointestinal illness. The state still recommends not eating the crabs’ viscera, cooking them thoroughly, and throwing out any liquid they’re cooked in.
The commercial crabbing season is still on hold over the toxin.
State Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) has issued a statement on this matter:
“Unfortunately, this is a bit of mixed news. While we have anticipated the Dungeness crab season opener since last November, coming this late in the season won’t move the needle when it comes to assisting the thousands of crabbers who have been struggling for nearly a year.” Senator McGuire said. “The vast majority of crabs are caught earlier in the winter months, so opening the season now will likely result in a dwindling number of crab trapped due to their mating and molting cycle.”
According to the California Department of Public Health, the best ways to reduce the risk of contamination are to remove the crab viscera and rinse out the body cavity prior to cooking, or boil or steam whole crabs, instead of frying or broiling and discard cooking liquids.
“This has been a very difficult season for hardworking Californians who have suffered significant financial hardship due to this natural disaster,” said Charlton H. Bonham, who is the director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We thank the affected communities for their patience and fortitude as we have worked with our partners at CDPH and OEHHA to open a portion of the commercial fishery along a traditional management boundary as recommended by the industry.”
Areas open to crab fishing include:
- Recreational Dungeness crab fishery along mainland coast south of Sonoma/Mendocino county line – 38° 46.1′ N Latitude, near Gualala, Mendocino County
- On March 26, 2016 Commercial Dungeness crab fishery along mainland coast south of Sonoma/Mendocino county line – 38° 46.1′ N Latitude, near Gualala, Mendocino County
- Commercial and recreational rock crab fishery along the mainland coast south of 35° 40′ N Latitude (Piedras Blancas Light Station, San Luis Obispo County)
Areas closed to crab fishing include:
- Recreational Dungeness crab fishery north of Sonoma/Mendocino county line – 38° 46.1′ N Latitude, near Gualala, Mendocino County
- Commercial Dungeness crab fishery north of Sonoma/Mendocino county line – 38° 46.1′ N Latitude, near Gualala, Mendocino County
- Commercial and recreational rock crab fisheries north of 35° 40′ N Latitude (Piedras Blancas Light Station)
- Commercial and recreational rock crab fisheries in state waters around San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands.