Recreational Dungeness crab season opened amidst health advisory

STATEWIDE—The California Dungeness crab season opened on Nov. 2, but not without a health advisory warning issued by the state’s Department of Public Health. Anglers are advised by Public Health staff to avoid consumption of the viscera (guts) of crab due to domoic acid.

The advisory applies to anglers catching Dungeness crab in two specific areas:

Shelter Cove in Humboldt County (40° 01.00 N. Lat.), south to Point Arena in Mendocino County (38° 57.50 N. Lat.); and, from Point Reyes in Marin County (38 ° 00.00 N. Lat.), south to Pillar Point in San Mateo County (37° 30.00 N. Lat.).

“Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin produced by a naturally occurring marine diatom (algae). Under certain ocean conditions large blooms of these diatoms occur and then accumulate in Dungeness crab,” California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) staff said in a released statement about the health advisory. “At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures and death.”

The Dungeness crab season itself kicked off at 12:01 a.m., Nov. 2. The daily bag and possession limit for anglers is 10 crabs at 5.75 inches or larger in width, “as measured by the shortest distance through the body from edge of shell to edge of shell directly in front of and excluding the points (lateral spines),” according to CDFW staff.

Anglers are permitted to catch Dungeness crab with crab loop traps (snares), crab traps or hoop nets. Skin and scuba divers may catch crabs with their hands, only.

Crab trap buoys must display the owner’s “GO ID” number, which is assigned by the Automated License Data System. The trap must contain at least one destruct device, according to CDFW staff.

“When using another person’s trap, written permission, including permission transmitted electronically (i.e. email or text), from the owner of the trap must contain the GO ID number that matches the GO ID on the buoy and must be in the operator’s possession in order to operate the trap,” CDFW staff added in a released statement.

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