Dungeness Crab Report: For Better or Worse

Dungeness Crab season opens in some parts of California, but don't get too excited yet.

So, I’m not an expert in the ins and outs of crab fishing, but there have been some confusing reports about Bay Area crabbing season.

The good news is that a large portion of the California Coast has opened for sport fishing and may soon open commercially. The bad news: It doesn’t include anything north of Point Reyes in Marin. Here’s what I know about Dungeness crabs for the North Bay.

Dungeness Crab at Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. Photo: ©Heather Irwin
Dungeness Crab at Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. Photo: ©Heather Irwin

Feb. 12, 2016: As of today, it’s a good news, bad news for Northern California’s Dungeness crab season. The good news is that recreational fishing for the crabs is open for areas south of Point Reyes in Marin County. The bad news: It’s still closed for anything north, including Bodega Bay and the Sonoma Coast. It was decided by numerous agencies that Dungeness crab caught on the coast south of Pt. Reyes posed no significant human health risk from high levels of domoic acid.

Word is that commercial fishing may resume late next week south of Point Reyes, although its still speculative.

The Dungeness and rock crab health advisory between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties was lifted in late December, according to published reports.

Oregon and Washington state also had delays in their crab seasons, but commercial crab fishing season officially opened on Jan. 4, 2016. What most of us who’ve had crab recently are eating is from those states.

The backstory: Commercial crab season was officially closed in early November after high levels of domoic acid  was found in crabs. The acid is a neurotoxin that poses a health risk to humans and can result in short-term memory loss, seizures and even death at high levels. In lower levels, expect a pretty bad stomach ache.

On Feb. 9, Gov. Jerry Brown request a federal disaster declaration for California’s commercial crab fisheries. The economic impact to the state’s crab industry has been devastating, with an estimated loss of up to $90 million.

(Did I get something wrong? Please let me know so I can fix it. As I said, I’m not an expert, just passing along what I know.)

Dungeness Crab Fishing Resources
California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Ocean Recreational Fishing Report