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Dungeness Crab Season Threatened By Toxic Algae Bloom Along Pacific Coast

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- There's a large toxic algae bloom out in the Pacific and fishermen at San Francisco's Pier 45 are worried it could do serious damage to this season's Dungeness crab catch.

Tres Barrus traveled all the way from Alaska to take a crack at catching Dungeness crab in California waters but he might have to head home empty-handed.

"I'm a little worried but I think it'll be alright. I'm trying not to think too much on it," Barrus said.

State officials are now testing the Dungeness crab for a dangerous neurotoxin called domoic acid, which the crab can pick up from algae. Domoic acid is resistant to high temperatures so even boiling the crabs during cooking won't eliminate it.

Dungeness Crab Fisherman
A sportsman at Fisherman's Wharf shows off a Dungeness crab he caught. (CBS)

"As a precaution, the California Department of Public Health is doing extensive testing in the ocean and crab beds just to be sure that no one harvests any crab that could be dangerous," said Andrew Hughan with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

But while those tests drag on, fishermen are getting antsy to get on the water, as the sport crab season is set to begin next weekend, with the commercial season coming a week later.

"Hopefully, it's only two weeks if it [the season] does get put off, but they say it could be more than a month," said crab fisherman Luke Northen.

As for Tres Barrus, he had hoped to earn a quick $30,000 when Dungeness season opens, but if this season's catch is off limits, he'll set his sights on more bountiful waters far to the north.

"I'll head back up north and crab there, head back up to Washington," he told us.

If tests come back this week showing the crab are safe, recreational crab season starts next Saturday.

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