Pixel Tracker

Thursday, January 17 , 2019, 6:00 pm | Fog/Mist 59º

 
 
 
 
Advice

State Reopens Mainland Santa Barbara County Crab Fishery

After a nearly two-month closure and just in time for the New Year, the state has reopened the commercial rock crab and Dungeness crab fisheries for mainland Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife lifted the ban Thursday, saying all crab caught on the mainland south of Piedras Blancas Light Station in northern San Luis Obispo County no longer posed a significant human health risk from high levels of neurotoxin domoic acid, a natural occurrence related to an algal “bloom” of a plant called pseudo-nitzschia.

The advisory remained in effect for state waters around Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel islands due to continued elevated levels of domoic acid in sampling results.

Recent tests near Santa Barbara’s shores show domoic acid levels in crabs have declined to low or undetectable levels.

Typically open year-round, the commercial rock crab fishery has been closed locally since Nov. 5, a rare occurrence affecting crab caught north of the Ventura and Santa Barbara County line up through Oregon.

California’s commercial Dungeness crab season was supposed to open Nov. 15.

To be safe, state health officials were still urging anglers and consumers not to eat the crab viscera — internal organs commonly called the “guts” or “butter” — because it usually contains more domoic acid than crab body meat.

Likewise, the California Department of Public Health and Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment recommend that water or broth used to cook whole crabs be discarded, not reused to prepare sauces, soups or stews.

Health officials say removing the crab viscera and rinsing out the body cavity prior to cooking or boiling and steaming whole crabs instead of frying or broiling could also reduce the unlikely chance that crabs still have levels above federal standards.

The news was welcome at Santa Barbara Harbor, where more than a dozen commercial fishermen rely on rock crab for their income.

Harbor Operations Manager Mick Kronman said commercial crab fishing is a $2 million a year industry, with another 28 percent in expanded local economic impact.

Many fishermen throw crab traps out near the Channel Islands, so they must wait and see when state officials deem those crabs safe to catch.

The algal blooms that helped cause the spike in domoic acid levels have thrived in warmer water, possibly related to El Nino.

State officials acknowledge waters have been warmer and that El Nino typically brings those temperatures, but they stop short of officially connecting the dots.

According to health officials, symptoms of domoic acid poisoning can occur within 30 minutes to 24 hours after eating toxic seafood. They range from vomiting, diarrhea and headaches to trouble breathing, heart problems, coma or death.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.