With this action, the entire Washington coast is open for sport crabbing after elevated levels of domoic acid forced the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to close the crab fisheries this summer.
WDFW opened the northern coast in late August, when toxin levels there dropped to safe levels. Marine toxin levels have continued to decline on the southern coast over the last month, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. Recent tests by the Washington Department of Health (DOH) show crabs on the southern coast – from Point Chehalis south to the Columbia River – are also safe to eat.
Domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae, can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities. Cooking or freezing does not destroy domoic acid in shellfish.
As usual, the use of crab pots is prohibited on the coast through Nov. 30, except in the Columbia River estuary, where pots are allowed year-round, Ayres said. Elsewhere along the coast, crabbers can use other gear, such as ring nets.
DOH will continue to test shellfish in all coastal marine waters. Harvesters should check for closures on DOH’s shellfish safety webpage at https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/eh/maps/biotoxin/biotoxin.html.
More information about domoic acid can be found on WDFW’s webpage athttp://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/domoic_acid.html.