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California Lifts Fishing Ban On Certain Shellfish After Fewer Toxins Found

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- While the state halted the Dungeness crab season because of toxic algae concerns, the ban on other shellfish caught along much of the California coast has been lifted. The news is a possible glimmer of hope for the crab industry.

Angela Cincotta at Alioto-Lazio Wholesale Fish Company would normally have so many crabs they'd be climbing on top of each other.

The same is true of visitors to the wharf. Not as many here as normal.

"Things are very challenging. Not just for the fishermen, but the processors, the restaurants, for everyone that depends on crab season for November," Cincotta said.

For true San Franciscans, no crab for Thanksgiving is like no turkey for everyone else. The restrictions on crab fishing off the coast here continues. But there is hopeful news.

"Now the Dungeness crabs can be eating relatively clean or toxin free prey items," said Dr. William Cochlan, senior research scientist at San Francisco State's Tiberon Marine Laboratory.

Levels of dangerous domoic acid had been high in mussels, oysters and clams caught off the coast. Not anymore.

"Those clams and mussels, and other filter feeding organisms, they're the food choice of the Dungeness crabs," Cochlan explained.

So crabs aren't eating toxins. That means over time it will get out of their system and they could be back on our menu.

"We're moving in the right direction. But I wouldn't plan your meal around crabs," Cochlan said.

Certainly not in time to save the crab season here. The next six weeks are make or break.

"There are years when this is 90 percent of our business. This is a heavy hit," Cincotta said.

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