As the Washington state commercial Dungeness crab harvest gets underway this month, managers, crab fishermen and processors want to assure the public that Washington crab are safe for human consumption.
Biotoxins that can sicken humans are monitored and crab samples are tested frequently prior to and throughout the harvest season. Tests look for domoic acid, the toxin produced by the unprecedented harmful algal bloom that affected the entire West Coast this year and have halted crab fisheries in California and Oregon.
Crab samples from fishing areas are submitted to the Washington Department of Health laboratory in Shoreline, north of Seattle, where they are analyzed. “Recent domoic acid test results from coastal crab in Washington did not find a health concern,” said Jerry Borchert, the Department of Health’s Marine Biotoxin Program lead. “The Department of Health will continue testing crab throughout the season to make sure the crab is safe,” Borchert said. Domoic acid at high levels can cause illness in humans but does not harm the crab.
“Our fisheries are conducted under a Consent Decree for Shellfish Safety with the Washington Department of Health that mandates testing of all shellfish harvests and guarantees safety for the public,” said Ed Johnstone, fisheries policy spokesperson for the Quinault Indian Nation. “We do this as standard practice for all of our shellfish harvests, not just when there is a threat.”