Toxins scrub crabbing season

Recreational crabbing was closed on Oregon's south coast Friday.

Photo by Nancy McClain

Recreational crabbing was closed indefinitely Friday along Oregon’s south coast after elevated levels of the marine biotoxin domoic acid were found again in the area’s Dungeness crab.

The closure covers the ocean and all bays and estuaries from the California border to Cape Blanco north of Port Orford, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, which monitors Dungeness for domoic acid levels.

Recreational collection of razor clams also remains closed from Cape Blanco to the California border. However, recreational collecting of mussels and bay clams remains open along the entire coast.

Crab and shellfish products sold in retail markets and restaurants are safe for consumers, according to ODA.

Domoic acid levels had rendered recreational crabbing off limits throughout most of last fall and winter along the south coast because of persistently high levels of the acid in Dungeness crab.

The season opened Jan. 31 but lasted just two weeks before tests showed higher biotoxin levels. That closure was lifted March 29 when domoic acid levels in crab fell below the unhealthy threshold in two consecutive samples.

The toxins concentrate in filter-feeders like razor clams, which are a staple of the Dungeness diet. They collect in the crabs’ tissues and fluids and slowly dissipate.

Domoic acid can cause minor to severe illness and even death in humans.

Severe poisoning can result in dizziness, headaches, vomiting and diarrhea. More extreme cases can result in memory loss and death.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or Follow him on Twitter at

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