Taking an extraordinary step Friday to protect the public from a dangerous toxin, the California Fish and Wildlife Department shuttered the state's cherished commercial Dungeness crab industry, delivering a cruel punch to the Bay Area's hard-luck fishermen.

"Crab is an important part of California's culture and economy, and I did not make this decision lightly," Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton Bonham said in a statement. "But doing everything we can to limit the risk to public health has to take precedence."

The decision postpones the Nov. 15 opening of the season indefinitely -- until tests by state health officials determine that the crustaceans are once again safe to eat. The crabs are tainted by domoic acid, a compound caused by harmful algae blooms that spread along the Pacific Coast this year because of unusually warm ocean temperatures.

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