PRINCETON-BY-THE-SEA — With crab pots and equipment already piled high in their boats, commercial fishermen along much of the Northern California coast at long last are poised to set sail this week, launching the Dungeness crab season after state officials finally declared the iconic creatures safe to eat.

A nearly five-month delay was caused by hazardous levels of toxin in the tasty crustaceans. But if it's determined that the crab are good enough for the market this late in the season, they could finally be ready for consumers by midweek.

"The guys are itching to go out," said Devin Bunch, whose boat, the Cricket, is loaded with crab pots ready to sail. "We want to go fish," Bunch said under sunny blue skies on a near-perfect California coastal morning in Princeton's Pillar Point Harbor near Half Moon Bay.

What's left of the crab season officially began on Saturday, but boats from Bodega Bay to Pillar Point aren't moving until processors test crabs — not for toxins but for the quality of the meat — caught over the weekend and then set a price for them on Monday. The crab for testing was brought on Saturday to San Francisco by two boats, one from Half Moon Bay and one from San Francisco.

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