MENDOCINO CO., 11/27/17 -- The California Department of Fish & Wildlife announced today that the opening of the commercial Dungeness crab season will be delayed until at least December 15 due to poor meat quality test results. The delay affects Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte counties. The commercial season was initially supposed to begin December 1, and it may be delayed longer depending on further test results, which the agency is hoping will be available by December 16.
Currently, recreational crabbing is open statewide, but health advisories due to elevated levels of dominic acid in parts of the north coast, where people are warned not to consume the internal organs (also called "butter" or "guts) as they may be toxic. These include Laguna Point, Mendocino County northward to Humboldt Bay North Jetty, Humboldt County, and the Klamath River mouth, and Humboldt County northward to the Oregon border. More information about those warnings can be found here. Last year, both the commercial rock crab season and the commercial Dungeness season were restricted due to public health concerns from domoic acid.
The meat quality tests are supposed to determine whether crabs "are filled out enough prior to harvesting," according to the CAFW, and the agency is hoping to conduct an additional test prior to December 7 to re-assess the meat quality. The standards are determined by the Tri-State Dungeness Crab Committee, which is overseen by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. According to state regulations, the opening of the season can not be delayed past January 15 due to meat quality. Similar delays may be occurring in parts of Oregon and Washington.
You can read the CDFW's "Frequently Asked Questions," about this year's commercial crab season here. The full press release is below:
"Due to poor crab meat quality test results conducted at the beginning of November, the Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has issued a memo delaying the opening of the commercial Dungeness crab season in Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 (Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties) for a minimum of 15 days until Dec. 16, under authority of Fish and Game Code section 8276.2. Crab quality tests ensure that crab are filled out enough prior to harvesting and follow the testing guidelines established by the Tri-State Dungeness Crab Committee that is overseen by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.
“We are trying to schedule a second round of testing to take place before Dec. 7 to determine whether the fishery can open Dec. 16 or will need to be further delayed,” said CDFW Environmental Scientist Christy Juhasz.
If quality tests remain low, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham has the authority to delay the season an additional 15 days. The season cannot be delayed beyond Jan. 15 due to crab quality as mandated in section 8276.2 of the Fish and Game Code.
The fishery is currently scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 16, 2017. This opening will be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2017.
No vessel may take or land crab within Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 during the closure period. In addition, any vessel that lands crab from ocean waters outside of Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 is prohibited from participating in the crab fishery in Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9, or any other delayed opening areas in Oregon or Washington, for 30 days following the opening of those areas.
Please refer to CDFW’s Frequently Asked Questions about the Commercial Dungeness Crab Fishery for the 2017-18 season.
Recreational crabbing remains open statewide. There are two areas of the coast in northern California where the California Department of Public Health advises consumers not eat the viscera (internal organs, also known as “butter” or “guts”) of crabs due to elevated levels of domoic acid. These areas include Laguna Point, Mendocino County northward to Humboldt Bay North Jetty, Humboldt County, and the Klamath River mouth, Humboldt County northward to the Oregon border.
For more information on health advisories related to fisheries, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories.
For more general information on Dungeness crab in California, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab."