Lingering hope for fresh, buttery crab is slowly melting away as killer toxins disgorged by colossal algae blooms lurk stubbornly offshore, wreaking havoc on the Bay Area fishing industry and raising concerns about the future of the winter staple.

High levels of a neurotoxin called domoic acid are still being found in Dungeness crab between Crescent City (Del Norte County) and Monterey almost two months after the poison forced health officials to close the lucrative commercial Dungeness season before it opened, after also halting recreational fishing.

The ban, which includes rock crab, was supposed to be temporary, but the microscopic pathogen has remained in the food chain even though the algae plumes that produce the toxin have largely dissipated, biologists said.

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