The commercial Dungeness crab season is supposed to start on Tuesday in Oregon and parts of Washington. But concerns about marine toxins have pushed that opening back to at least the middle of the month.
On Monday, crab from Southern Oregon tested safe for human consumption – a positive sign for the state’s most valuable fishery.
A massive warm water algae bloom this summer flooded the Northwest coast with high levels of domoic acid, which can be deadly to humans if consumed.
In mid November, testing found high levels of the toxin in crabs near Coos Bay.
The latest results from Brookings and Port Orford show levels have dropped.
“This is the first round that has been all clear in every single port collected. It’s showing that domoic acid levels have not increase in any of our areas on our coast,” says Kelly Corbett of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
It takes two all-clear tests in a row for the fishery to be considered safe. Oregon and Washington are both awaiting results of another round of tests before giving the all-clear. Those results are expected later this week.
If crabs test below levels of concern for domoic acid in the second round, then recreational crabbing health alerts for Southern Oregon will be lifted.
Corbett says because of administrative processes, it will likely take an additional week for the commercial season to open, putting the earliest opening day around December 15th.