North coast of Washington reopens to crab fishing including Grays Harbor

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OLYMPIA – The recreational and commercial Dungeness crab fisheries on the northern coast of Washington will reopen effective immediately, state shellfish managers announced today.

Earlier this month, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) closed crabbing on the northern coast – from Point Chehalis north to the Queets River – when levels of marine toxins posed a threat to public health. That area, including Grays Harbor, is now open.

The southern Washington coast – from Point Chehalis south to the Columbia River – remains closed to crabbing.

Levels of domoic acid have been decreasing in coastal waters, said Dan Ayres, WDFW coastal shellfish manager. Recent tests by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) show crabs on the northern coast are safe to eat.

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.

Ayres noted that the use of crab pots is prohibited after Sept. 15, when the commercial fishery ends. The recreational fishery on the northern coast will remain open to crabbers using other gear, such as ring nets.

DOH will continue to test shellfish in all coastal marine waters. Harvesters should check for closures on DOH’s shellfish safety webpage at https://fortress.wa.gov/doh/eh/maps/biotoxin/biotoxin.html

More information about domoic acid can be found on WDFW’s webpage at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/domoic_acid.html

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