This year’s crab season has been a near-total bust, thanks (no thanks!) to a seaborne diatomaceous bloom that gave local Dungeness unsafe levels of toxic domoic acid. Though recreactional crabbing was opened back up a few months ago, we’re now about five months out from the usual start of the commercial crabbing season here in Humboldt.
But yesterday, after a new round of domoic acid testing, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife had a bit of good news for local crabbers, whose traps have been idle all this time: There will be a commercial crab season after all! Starting one week from Thursday, or shortly thereafter, you will once again be able to buy local crab in stores, or off the dock, or wherever you are accustomed to buying your crab.
Celebrate! There are only a couple of caveats. For one, a good stretch of Humboldt County — from the north jetty to Reading Rock, near Orick — is still closed, as the latest round of testing still showed unhealthy levels of domoic acid in some crabs there. So a good portion of Humboldt’s traditional hunting grounds are still off limits.
For another: The Department of F&W wants you to take care when you eat your crab. Discard the guts, and don’t use the water you boil your crab in for sauce or anything.
Full press release below. First, let’s let the preeminent “crabcore” band Attack Attack! play in the season! Hit it, boys!
Press release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:
Except for one area within Humboldt County, the California coast is open for recreational Dungeness crab fishing. The commercial crab fishery will follow in the same areas, opening May 12.
The recreational Dungeness crab fishery is open north of 41° 17.6’ N latitude at the southern boundary line of Reading Rock State Marine Conservation Area (near Redwood Creek), Humboldt County to the California/Oregon border, however the recreational fishery remains closed between 40° 46.15′ N latitude (a line extending due west from the west end of the north jetty at the entrance of Humboldt Bay) and 41° 17.6’ N latitude.
Today the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) were notified by the director of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), after consultation with the director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), that it no longer recommends the Dungeness crab fishery be closed in this area. According to the notice, repeated sampling of Dungeness crab and analysis of samples by CDPH laboratories indicates that consumption of Dungeness crab taken from this area no longer poses a significant threat for domoic acid exposure.
Pursuant to the emergency regulations adopted by CDFW (California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 131), CDFW is providing commercial Dungeness crab fishermen ten days’ notice before the opening of the commercial fishery. The commercial fishery will open at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, May 12, from the Mendocino/Sonoma County line to 40° 46.15′ N latitude (a line extending due west from the west end of the north jetty at the entrance of Humboldt Bay) and north of 41° 17.6’ N latitude at the southern boundary line at Reading Rock SMCA (near Redwood Creek), Humboldt County to the California/Oregon border. The presoak period, during which commercial fishers may begin setting gear in place, starts at 8:01 a.m. Monday, May 9. For answers regarding fair start concerns due to the partial opening of Fish and Game District 6, see the latest department FAQs: Application of the Fair Start Rule to Potential Opening of Closed Areas on the North Coast.
The recreational Dungeness crab season in Humboldt and Mendocino counties is scheduled to end July 30 under regular open season regulations in the newly opened area while in counties south of Mendocino County the recreational season closes on June 30. The commercial fishery in the newly opened Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 are scheduled to end July 15 under regular open season regulations.
The recreational and commercial rock crab fishery is open along the mainland coast south of 36° 58.72′ N latitude (Sand Hill Bluff, Santa Cruz County) and in the Channel Islands except in the Channel Islands exclusion area between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands (see coordinates below).
Despite several weeks of test results that showed samples below alert levels, as a precaution, CDPH and OEHHA recommend that anglers and consumers not eat the viscera (internal organs, also known as “butter” or “guts”) of crabs. CDPH and OEHHA are also recommending that water or broth used to cook whole crabs be discarded and not used to prepare dishes such as sauces, broths, soups or stews. The viscera usually contain much higher levels of domoic acid than crab body meat. When whole crabs are cooked in liquid, domoic acid may leach from the viscera into the cooking liquid. This precaution is being recommended to avoid harm in the unlikely event that some crabs taken from an open fishery have elevated levels of domoic acid.
Pursuant to the emergency regulations adopted by the Commission and CDFW on November 5 and 6, 2015, respectively, the current open and closed areas are as follows:
Areas open to crab fishing include:
- Recreational Dungeness crab fishery open along mainland coast south of 40° 46.15’ N lat., at the Humboldt Bay entrance, Humboldt County, including ocean waters of Humboldt Bay to the California/Mexico border and north of 41° 17.6’ N lat. at the southern boundary of the Reading Rock SMCA (near Redwood Creek), Humboldt County to the California/Oregon border.
- On May 12, 2016 commercial Dungeness crab fishery open along mainland coast south of 40° 46.15’ N lat., at the Humboldt Bay entrance, Humboldt County to the California/Mexico border and north of 41° 17.6’ N lat. at the southern boundary of the Reading Rock SMCA (near Redwood Creek), Humboldt County to the California/Oregon border. Note: The commercial fishery is currently open south of the Sonoma/Mendocino county line.
- Commercial and recreational rock crab fisheries are open along the mainland coast south of 36° 58.72′ N Lat.at Sand Hill Bluff, Santa Cruz County (approximately 9 miles north of Santa Cruz Harbor Entrance).
- Commercial and recreational rock crab fisheries are open in state waters of the Channel Islands except for an exclusion area between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands (see coordinates below).
Areas closed to crab fishing include:
- Commercial and recreational Dungeness crab fishery are closed between of 40° 46.15’ N lat., near Humboldt Bay entrance, Humboldt County and 41° 17.6’ N lat. at southern boundary of the Reading Rock SMCA (near Redwood Creek), Humboldt County.
- [Some places near Santa Cruz]
CDFW will continue to closely coordinate with CDPH, OEHHA and fisheries representatives to extensively monitor domoic acid levels in Dungeness and rock crabs to determine when the fisheries can safely be opened throughout the state.