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Crab season opens this week on last sections of Oregon's coastline -- with possible caveat

Brian Bull
Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission

The final two stretches of Oregon’s coast will open for commercial Dungeness crab fishing this week. But there may be some restrictions.

The coastline to the north from Cape Falcon to the Washington border opens for commercial crabbing Feb. 1. The south coast from Cape Arago to the California border is set to open this Saturday.

The commercial season was delayed this year due to crab with low meat fill and high domoic acid levels.

According to officials with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, meat fill is now excellent. However, low levels of biohazardous domoic acid are traceable in crabs along some sections of the south coast.

Testing continues, but if acid levels remain elevated, some crabbing areas will open under an “evisceration requirement” to protect consumers. That means crabs caught commercially must be gutted by a licensed Oregon Department of Agriculture seafood processor and cannot be sold whole.

Rachael McDonald

Domoic acid is a dangerous biohazard associated with algal blooms. The acid accumulates in the guts of the crab, so crabs harvested commercially in these areas, called “biotoxin management zones,” must be gutted and cleaned before being sold.

In a statement, ODFW’s marine resources program manager, Caren Braby said “opening the crab season in any area with an evisceration requirement is not ideal.” She also stated the importance of getting the “fishery going for vessel crews who are waiting for paychecks and to avoid the on-coming migration of whales.”

Braby further stated, “We are fortunate in Oregon to have a system that allows this fishery to harvest through biotoxin events and provide a safe, delicious product. Biotoxin events are occurring more frequently due to changing ocean conditions, so we are prepared for the future with our Oregon system.”

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Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.