West Coast crabbers can't seem to catch a break. The 2015 California Dungeness crab ban has now spread up the coast to Oregon and Washington where the state Departments of Fish and Wildlife have delayed the December 1 season opening. According The Seattle Times, recent tests detected dangerous levels of domoic acid in crabs, a toxin produced by microscopic algae. Areas in and around Grays Harbor, Washington are still testing at safe levels.
Warmer waters off the coast this year have caused the naturally occurring algae to grow into a massive bloom this fall and the bans are particularly bad for coastal fisherman whose livelihood is tied to the overall success of the season. If the fisheries fail to open at all it could have a huge economic impact on the West Coast crab industry, which harvested nearly $170 million worth of Dungeness crab in 2014.
California has yet to lift its ban on Dungeness. The state delayed the November 15 start of its season due to the toxin, much to the chagrin of the state's restaurants and diners. Still, there may yet be hope for some parts of the region. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that tests this week showed that domoic acid levels in the Bay Area had dropped to safe levels. In order to lift the ban, concentrations of the toxin would have to consistently test at safe levels — below 30 parts per million — for two weeks straight.
Unfortunately, seafood bans may become more common in the future. In May, the CDC warned that cases of Vibrio, a food-borne illness typically spread through the consumption of raw shellfish, were on the rise due to warmer waters caused by climate change. Vibrio poisoning has killed 13 people in Florida since the beginning of the year.