California’s Dungeness crab season facing second year of troubles due to algae toxin

State health officials Wednesday recommended an indefinite delay of the commercial crabbing season for Dungeness along a more than 200-mile stretch of Northern California owing to a toxin from algae blooms.

The recommendation from California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment marks a second year that toxic blooms have hit the West Coast’s crabbing industry. Dungeness is a tradition on holiday tables for many in this part of the country.

Commercial crabbing for Dungeness was supposed to start Dec. 1. State health officials are recommending now that commercial crabbing from Humboldt Bay to Point Reyes be delayed indefinitely.

As many as half of Dungeness sampled in those areas tested over the limits for domoic acid. The toxin stems from algae blooms and can cause food-poisoning-like problems, breathing difficulties, disorientation and death.


California health officials say Dungeness caught from the Oregon border to Humboldt Bay still test safe. Oregon shut down all crabbing for a stretch of coast north of the California border earlier this week because of the toxin.

California health officials earlier had recommended that recreational crabbers avoid eating the guts of Dungeness or drinking broth from boiling the crab to minimize exposure.