Washington and Oregon delayed crab season after discovering toxins in crustaceans

By Money Times

Nov 23, 2015 07:53 PM EST

Crabs are eaten widely in Washington, Oregon and California. It also a tradition at Thanksgiving and other holiday meals. But this year, the locals have to wait for a little to get their hands on scrumptious crab dishes.

According to The Seattle Times, along with California, Oregon and Washington has also delayed the initiation of their commercial crab seasons after dangerous toxin levels were discovered in the crabs.

According to the officials, the crabs in all the three states have dangerously high levels of domoic acid, a deadly substance which is believed to be naturally produced by microscopic algae in the Pacific Ocean. But this year, the warming ocean conditions have led to mass production of algae, leading to toxin production which is then consumed by shellfish. 

In California, the start of the crab season was Nov. 15 but got delayed after finding dangerous levels of the toxin. On Friday, Oregon also delayed its Dec. 1 start along its entire coast when they found the elevated level of poison in the southern half of the state. Washington is also set to follow Oregon after the toxin discovery.

"This delay will allow completion of additional tests, with close coordination with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, to help us provide confidence that crab harvested from Oregon waters are all safe to consume," Corbett said, as reported by OPB.

Although much of the central and southern coast is closed for the state officials to continue testing, Oregon's North Coast is open to recreational crabbing.

As reported by NBC Bay Area, Tribal crab fisheries in Grays Harbor and the adjacent ocean area are open as according to the officials, the crab there is safe and toxin levels are lower. However, it is still not decided for how long the delay will last.

Dungeness crabs are traditional dishes served on Thanksgiving and other holiday meals. In 2014, nearly $170 million worth of Dungeness crabs was harvested by industry along the West Coast.A

A fisherman and an owner of two Dungeness crab boats in Warrenton, Ore, John Corbin said that In the past, crab seasons have been delayed due to the shortage of crabs. He added that a very low concentration of domoic acid has been found in crabs for decades, that pose no risk, Corbin said. But high toxic levels are only found every dozen years or so.

"This year they're full enough, but we want to make sure the crab is good quality and safe for the public," he said. "When things are right, we will go at it."

However, according to the officials, crabs sold in stores and restaurants remain safe to eat. Some crabs available on the market now may have been harvested months ago and frozen for later, or sourced from other areas.

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