With Dungeness season on hold, Calif. boats idle

San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf typically bustles this time of year as workers prepare to haul millions of pounds of Dungeness crab that are a tradition at Thanksgiving and other holiday meals.

But crab pots are sitting empty on docks, boats are idled and fishermen are anxiously waiting for California authorities to open the lucrative Dungeness crab season.

California has delayed the Nov. 15 start of its commercial crab season after finding dangerous levels of a toxin in crabs. Officials in Oregon and Washington are testing crab samples and will decide soon whether to open its coastal season by Dec. 1 as planned.

A massive bloom of microscopic algae — which produced a natural toxin called domoic acid that is harmful to wildlife and fish — in the Pacific Ocean is threatening the crab industry during a time when many fishing outfits make their most money. It’s also roiling coastal tourism and marine ecosystems.

A closure along the entire West Coast would be a blow to the industry, which harvested nearly $170 million worth of Dungeness crab in 2014.

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About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 13 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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