Recreational and Commercial Rock Crab Fishery Opens in Channel Islands, Excluding State Waters Between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands

State health officials determined today that rock crab species caught in state waters near the Channel Islands no longer contain high levels of domoic acid, and no longer pose a significant risk to human health. Acting upon a recommendation from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), in consultation with the director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Fish and Game Commission has opened the recreational and commercial rock crab fisheries in this area.

However, a closure still remains in effect in state waters between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands within an exclusion area bounded by straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed:

  • 34° 7.75’ N lat. 120° 0.00’ W long.;
  • 34° 7.75’ N lat. 119° 50.00’ W long.;
  • 33° 53.00’ N lat. 119° 50.00’ W long.;
  • 33° 53.00’ N lat. 120° 0.00’ W long.; and
  • 34° 7.75’ N lat. 120° 0.00’ W long.

Closures remain in effect for all rock crab in areas north of Piedras Blancas Light Station in San Luis Obispo County (35° 40′ N latitude), and for Dungeness crab in state waters north of the Sonoma/Mendocino County Line (38° 46.1′ N latitude). Tests on crabs in those areas continued to show elevated levels of domoic acid.

Pursuant to emergency regulations adopted by the Fish and Game Commission, the recreational rock crab fishery is now open in state waters near the Channel Islands except for within the above listed exclusion area. The commercial rock crab fishery is also open effective immediately within the same areas open for the recreational crab fishery.

Despite several weeks of samples below alert levels, as a precaution, CDPH and OEHHA recommend that anglers and consumers not eat the viscera (internal organs, also known as “butter” or “guts”) of crabs. CDPH and OEHHA are also recommending that water or broth used to cook whole crabs be discarded and not used to prepare dishes such as sauces, broths, soups or stews. The viscera usually contain much higher levels of domoic acid than crab body meat.  When whole crabs are cooked in liquid, domoic acid may leach from the viscera into the cooking liquid.  This precaution is being recommended to avoid harm in the unlikely event that some crabs taken from an open fishery have elevated levels of domoic acid.

Elevated domoic acid levels forced a closure of the rock crab fishery but also a delay in the opening of the more economically valuable Dungeness crab fishery.  With recent test results showing that domoic acid levels south of the Mendocino/Sonoma county line no longer pose a significant human health risk, both the recreational and commercial Dungeness crab fisheries opened earlier this month.

Pursuant to the emergency regulations adopted by the Fish and Game Commission and CDFW on Nov.  5 and 6, respectively, the current open and closed areas are as follows:

Areas open to crab fishing include:

  • Recreational and commercial rock crab fisheries along the mainland coast south of 35° 40′ N latitude (Piedras Blancas Light Station, San Luis Obispo County)
  • Recreational and commercial rock crab fisheries in state waters near the Channel Islands outside of the exclusion area between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands
  • Recreational and commercial Dungeness crab fisheries along mainland coast south of Sonoma/Mendocino County line at 38° 46.1’ N latitude, near Gualala, Mendocino County

Areas closed to crab fishing include:

  • Recreational and commercial rock crab fisheries north of 35° 40′ N latitude (Piedras Blancas Light Station, San Luis Obispo County)
  • Recreational and commercial rock crab fisheries in state waters between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands within an exclusion area bounded by straight lines connecting the following points in the order listed:

(1) 34° 7.75’ N lat. 120° 0.00’ W long.;
(2) 34° 7.75’ N lat. 119° 50.00’ W long.;
(3) 33° 53.00’ N lat. 119° 50.00’ W long.;
(4) 33° 53.00’ N lat. 120° 0.00’ W long.; and
(5) 34° 7.75’ N lat. 120° 0.00’ W long.

  • Recreational and commercial Dungeness crab fishery north of Sonoma/Mendocino County line at 38° 46.1’ N Latitude, near Gualala, Mendocino County

CDFW will continue to closely coordinate with CDPH, OEHHA and fisheries representatives to extensively monitor domoic acid levels in Dungeness and rock crabs to determine when the fisheries can safely be opened in the remainder of the state.

Rock Crab Fishery Closure Map

OEHHA Memo 3/28/2016

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Media Contacts:
Christy Juhasz, CDFW Marine Region, (707) 576-2887

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988