The remaining southern portion of Oregon’s coastline commercial Dungeness crab fishery, from Cape Arago, just south of Charleston, to the California border, is expected to open for harvesting on Saturday, Feb. 4th.
The earliest a crab season may begin is Dec. 1, pending meat fill and biotoxin results. Officials with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) said this year the season opener was delayed due to crab in some areas with low meat fill or high domoic acid levels in crab viscera.
The season opened on Jan. 15 from Cape Falcon to Cape Arago and is expected to open Feb. 1 from Cape Falcon to the Washington border.
According to ODFW, the meat fill is now excellent statewide, yet domoic acid remains elevated in some portions of the southern coast. To ensure a good product for consumers some part(s) of this area may be open under an evisceration requirement.
Harvest of crab from a “biotoxin management zone” (BMZ), where domoic acid levels are high, may occur only with the pairing of an evisceration requirement. Currently, there is a BMZ that includes only a small portion of the open area from Cape Arago to just north of Charleston, around Coos Bay. The BMZ location and timing will depend on results of ongoing biotoxin testing. The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) tests crab and other shellfish for biotoxins throughout the season.
Domoic acid may be removed by evisceration, the process used to remove the guts where domoic acid accumulates. Any crab landed commercially from a BMZ must be eviscerated by a licensed ODA seafood processor and cannot be sold whole.
Manager Caren Braby of ODFW’s Marine Resources Program said opening the crab season in any area with an evisceration requirement is not ideal, but that they need to get the fishery going for the vessel crews who are waiting for paychecks and to avoid the oncoming migration of whales.
“We are fortunate in Oregon to have a system that allows this fishery to harvest through biotoxin events and provide a safe, delicious product,” she said. “Biotoxin events are occurring more frequently due to changing ocean conditions, so we are prepared for the future with our Oregon system.”