State shellfish managers reopened the recreational crab fishery inside Willapa Bay on Friday, after test results showed the crab are again safe to eat.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced the opening after a month-long closure prompted by elevated levels of domoic acid.
Domoic acid, a natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae, can be harmful or even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities. Cooking or freezing does not destroy domoic acid in shellfish.
Levels of domoic acid in Willapa Bay crabs have declined over this past month, said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for WDFW. Recent tests by the Washington Department of Health show toxin levels in Willapa Bay crab are well below health-safety standards.
Commercial crabbing in Willapa Bay remains closed. Shellfish managers from Washington, Oregon and California will meet next week to determine when to open commercial Dungeness crab fisheries, including those on Washington’s southern coast.
Those fisheries were delayed from the scheduled Dec. 1 opening to allow more time for marine toxin testing.
Regular testing of shellfish species found in Willapa Bay – including oysters, hard-shell clams and mussels – shows those shellfish remain safe to eat.
WDFW continues to test for domoic acid in razor clams along Washington’s coastal beaches, where digging has been closed this fall. Domoic acid tends to remain in the fat cells of razor clams longer than other shellfish species. The department will make an announcement once toxin levels drop to safe levels and digging can begin.