Following an announcement earlier this week that fisheries on the north of Point Chehalis would reopen to crab fishing, including the waters of Grays Harbor, recreational Dungeness crab fishing will close in Grays Harbor, except for the Westport Boat Basin.
State shellfish managers announced that based on recent marine toxin tests, the Washington Department of Health determined that Dungeness crab are unsafe for human consumption in Marine Area 1 (Ilwaco from the Columbia River to Leadbetter Point) and Marine Area 2 (south of Point Chehalis) and Marine Area 2-2 (Grays Harbor).
This excludes the Westport Boat Basin.
It is now unlawful to set, maintain, operate or possess baited or unbaited shellfish pots, ring nets or any other method of catching crab in the closed areas.
The latest closure is due to domoic acid, the natural toxin produced by certain types of marine algae, that has caused issued throughout recent shellfish seasons.
Levels of domoic acid have increased in coastal waters over recent months. Earlier, the department closed all Washington coastal beaches to razor clam digging due to high levels of the toxin.
“Marine toxins are not cutting us any slack, and despite our efforts to find windows in which we can open these popular fisheries, we are still plagued by recurring tests indicating marine toxin levels are too high,” said Dan Ayres, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager.
Shellfish managers working with DOH briefly opened Grays Harbor crab fishing from Wednesday until now.
The one area where crabbing in Grays Harbor remains open is inside the Westport Boat Basin, defined as the waters inside the breakwater between markers 10 and 11 and markers 1 and 2, which indicate the two entrances to the basin.
“Recent testing for domoic acid indicates the issue is with crab found outside of the boat basin,” said Ayres. “Still, to avoid any exposure to possible toxins, we ask that any crab caught in the basin be cleaned thoroughly with viscera removed before consumption – as currently recommended by the Department of Health.”
Crab fishing in areas north of Point Chehalis also remain open, and viscera should also be removed from crab in these areas per current DOH guidelines.
Domoic acid can be harmful and even fatal if consumed in sufficient quantities. Cooking or freezing does not destroy domoic acid in shellfish.
More information about domoic acid can be found on WDFW’s domoic acid webpage.
Harvesters can find up-to-date information on seasons and shellfish safety information on the Washington Shellfish Safety Map webpage.