Dungeness crab fans can officially rejoice: The statewide recreational crab season has been given a start date of Nov. 5, by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
For those who love to have the crustacean at their holiday gatherings, this is a wonderful bit of news in light of last year’s problems. In 2015, the Dungeness crab season was impacted by elevated levels of domoic acid, throwing off the start of the season by months — and worrying commercial fisherman who depend on their annual haul.
The domoic levels eventually lowered to acceptable health levels, but missed the holiday season by weeks. A few counties were allowed to enjoy the seafood in late December, but the commercial crab season only truly opened statewide by March. At that point, much of the holiday sales had gone to out-of-state commercial fishing operations.
This year the commercial crabbing season is set to open on Nov. 15, and if officially approved by Fish and Wildlife, customers can get to cracking those Dungeness shells by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.
Although the crabs have been cleared for consumption by the California Department of Public Health, it has issued a warning against eating the internal organs of crab caught north of Point Reyes. Fish and Wildlife stated that domoic acid has been found in the viscera of some, but not all of the crabs, and issued a blanket warning for locals against consuming those parts. That will be a small damper for crab fans who enjoy those bits of crab most.
The department also further warned against using the broth of the crabs in prepared dishes, if the internal organs have not been removed, just as a precaution. The suggested ways of preparing crab to reduce risk are to remove the crab viscera before cooking, or boiling or steaming the crabs whole and throwing out the cooking liquids.
State health officials said last year that the heightened domoic acid levels in crabs were due to a giant algal bloom that grew in warmer-than-normal ocean waters. The California Health Department was being extremely cautious about the Dungeness crabs, as domoic acid is a neurotoxin that can cause a host of health issues if consumed.