Fishing and Restaurant Industries Reeling From Toxic Crab

Restaurants and fisherman across California are in a pinch, thanks to high levels of a deadly neurotoxin that has delayed the crab fishing season this year.

Health officials cautioned against Dungeness crab consumption last week, saying a massive coastal algae bloom fueled by El Niño poses a significant risk to public health. And, on Friday, the Department of Fish and Wildlife postponed the Nov. 15 opening of the commercial season until state testing confirms that the crustaceans are safe to eat.

The toxin at hand is known as Domoic Acid, which comes from phytoplankton or algae that thrives in warmer waters and can accumulate in fish and shellfish. When ingested by humans, the acid can cause everything from memory loss to seizures. In extreme cases, it can be fatal.

The situation is already dealing a massive blow to the $60-million-a-year-industry.

"We have all new crab gear this year," said commercial fisherman Frank Sousa. "And spent $40,000 getting everything ready for this season."

Restaurant co-owner Dante Serafini also fears the impact. In San Francisco, he said, crab is a popular Thanksgiving and Christmas staple along with turkey and stuffing for the holiday table.

"We have never had the situation where the crab season was being threatened," said Serafini. "We go through 400,000 pounds of crab a year in our restaurant and I don't know how to replace that."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association says it has seen a record-setting bloom of the toxic algae in the North Pacific. In early June, elevated levels also forced the closure of the southern Washington Coast to Dungeness crab fishing.

Read more about the impact on the fishing and restaurant industries here.

Image Credit: Flickr User 43634577@N00, https://flic.kr/p/awcs7j via (CC BY 2.0)


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Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - 04:21

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