Oregon’s commercial Dungeness crab season will be delayed until at least Dec. 16 because the crabs are low in meat and high in domoic acid, a toxin that can cause severe illness in people.
It’s the third year in a row the traditional Dec. 1 opening of the ocean season has been postponed.
Last year, Oregon’s commercial crab season was delayed until Dec. 18. The previous year it didn’t open until Jan. 4, disappointing holiday diners who look forward to the seasonal treat.
Both of those delays were due to high toxin levels.
Commercial Dungeness crab is Oregon’s most valuable fishery. Despite the delayed opening, last year’s season brought in the highest value ever at $62.7 million, with 22.4 million pounds landed. That’s about 22 percent above the 10-year average.
Domoic acid also has closed recreational crabbing this year in bays, estuaries and beaches along much of Oregon’s south and central coast.
The state tests crabs for domoic acid when there is an indicator the toxin could be in the environment, said Troy Buell, with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Resources Program. That indicator normally is the presence of high domoic acid in razor clams.
The coastal closure began Oct. 20 after such tests, Buell said.
The state also tests crabs for both domoic acid and meat yield just before the commercial ocean season opens.
“That’s what just happened,” Buell said.
There were some areas where domoic acid was low enough for the season to open, but the crabs have not filled out enough after molting, he said.
A second round of crab quality testing will take place in late November and early December to determine whether the season should be further delayed.
Crab and shellfish products sold at stores and restaurants still area safe to eat, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
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