SACRAMENTO (CBS/AP) – State officials delayed the start of the recreational crab fishing season by six months Thursday over concerns sparked by the discovery of dangerous levels of a neurotoxin in crabs caught in Northern California waters.
The three-member state Fish and Game Commission met in an emergency session triggered by the discovery during testing and the clock ticking down to the start of the recreational crab fishing season on Saturday.
Commissioners said the 180-day ban could be lifted if tests showed a change in the levels of domoic acid found in the crab meat.
The vote came two days after the Department of Public Health issued an advisory warning against consumption of Dungeness and rock crabs.
"This is something we absolutely have to do," said Fish and Game Commission member Eric Sklar.
Meanwhile, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife was expected to rule next week whether or not to delay the lucrative Dungeness crab commercial season slated to begin Nov. 15th.
A vast bloom of toxic algae has flourished off the West Coast this summer, bringing with it the threat of domoic acid exposure.
Scientists have detected domoic acid — a neurotoxin produced by the marine algae and is harmful to people, fish and marine life — in more than three dozen animals from Washington to California, including whales, dolphins, seabirds and seals. Several were found to have dangerous levels of the toxin, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
Ingesting the neurotoxin can make people extremely sick, and cause death in the worst cases. Symptoms of domoic acid poisoning may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache and dizziness and can occur within 30 minutes to 24 hours after eating the toxic seafood.
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