The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment recommended late Tuesday that the state put off the start of the Dungeness crab fishing season because of a potentially fatal biotoxin, as state officials scrambled to alert consumers and fishermen to a public health threat.

The recreational and commercial fisheries were slated to open Saturday and Nov. 15, respectively. It is now highly likely the seasons will be delayed indefinitely until the crab are deemed safe to eat.

The recommendation came hours after the California Department of Public Health issued an advisory warning consumers not to eat Dungeness or rock crab caught in California. Tests have revealed dangerously high levels of domoic acid, a compound produced by harmful algae blooms that have proliferated this year in the Pacific Ocean, a phenomenon state officials attributed in part to warm ocean temperatures linked to El Niño.

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