SACRAMENTO -- The upcoming Dungeness crab season will likely be affected by harmful algal blooms that contaminate seafood with a potent biotoxin, but the impact on commercial fishing probably won't be as severe as it was in 2015-16, when the season was disrupted by an unprecedented closure, experts said Wednesday.

Record-breaking warm temperatures in the Pacific Ocean last year produced a "super bloom" of algae along the West Coast, causing unsafe levels of domoic acid in crab and other shellfish. The Dungeness crab season was delayed by more than four months, inflicting major financial pain on Northern and Central California fishermen and disappointing Bay Area consumers who look forward to eating crab during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons.

At a special hearing Wednesday in Sacramento, a leading researcher on algal blooms said ocean temperatures are down this year, but still warmer than normal, and blooms are developing off the Central Coast and in other locations. But right now he is not predicting widespread blooms that would cause a statewide shutdown, as was the case last season.

"It's ramping up to become quite toxic in some areas," said Raphael Kudela, a phytoplankton ecologist at UC Santa Cruz. "What we're hoping is it stays localized."

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