Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Crab saga continues.

New results are in for Eureka and Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg got worse, Eureka got better. Fort Bragg had been clean when everyone else was dirty but now they've got the funk, too. Come on guys, catch up. We all need to work together. Get depurating. For your look at the numbers, click here.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

There was a little striper action in the surf at first light. Gage would like everyone to know that he caught this 13 pounder on a black and silver Pencil Popper. Another fish was lost and there were two other missed strikes, all in the first five minutes of fishing. After that it was just boredom and bragging. OK, mostly bragging.

Friday, November 20, 2015

    Here's the newest numbers for the crab. The good news is that the numbers are dropping. Some places have numbers low enough to be opened up, but the whole state needs to be good before that will happen. The northern ports should have some test results in the next 3-4 days if the boats were able to get out. Bodega area is still too high but not by much. Apparently the crab are depurating well. (There, I used it in a sentence.)
    Not too much going on here except for rockfish when you can get out of the bay. By 10:00 AM yesterday we caught four limits of rockfish and two lings in 150 feet of water off of Bird Rock. It was a bit sloppy for us but the weather is supposed to be nice for the next couple of days.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

*UPDATE* The boat is found.

You may have heard about the rescues on Tomales Bay on Sunday. In two separate incidents people ended up in the water on a really rough day. The Fire Department and the National Park Service plucked the boaters out of the water but (probably wisely, considering the weather) chose not to tow in this boat. If know of this vessel's whereabouts, please email me at lawsonslanding@gmail.com and I'll get the info over to a grateful registered owner. And let's be more careful out there. The firemen are starting get tired of all this rescue stuff, especially now that the water is cooling off.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Answers for questions you may not have had

   Here's some answers to questions people have had about domoic acid. Hopefully this answers more questions than it generates.

Below are answers to the questions you posed a few days ago, along with two additional questions that have come up since and associated responses. These responses have been reviewed by California Department of Public Health (CDPH) staff. I hope these answers shed a little light on current information about and processes regarding domoic acid (DA) toxins in California commercial fisheries.


Carrie Culver
Aquatic Resources Specialist/Research Scientist
California Sea Grant
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego and
Marine Science Institute, UC Santa Barbara


Responses to Fishing Community Questions

1. Have there been any studies done on if the crab are kept in a closed system, how long it takes them to purge?
Yes, at least one study has been conducted and likely more will be forthcoming (proposal pending;  submitted by California Sea Grant Extension and UCSB, in collaboration with CDPH). For Dungeness crab in a laboratory setting, DA was depurated within 21 days if fed non DA–contaminated food (Lund et al. 1997).
2. How many crab do you actually have to eat to get sick?
This is a difficult question to answer, as it will depend on the levels of DA in the consumed crab, how it is prepared and what parts of the crab are consumed.  Clearly the highest risk of exposure is associated with consuming raw viscera, also known as crab butter, and even raw crab tissue if both contain high DA levels. The process of boiling crab in water reduces the concentration of DA by ~70% (67-71 %) in the crab (Hatfield, et al., 1995; Quilliam, 1991), but steaming, grilling, stir-frying and baking presumably retain higher DA levels as DA is not leached during these food preparation processes.
3. Once the crab are collected, what are the procedures for testing and how long does it really take? 
Crabs first need to be surrounded by gel packs when shipped overnight to the laboratory. Upon receipt the samples are prepared for analysis. This requires cooking the crab and then dissecting the various parts for testing. Crabs from different areas must be cooked separately so as not to cross-contaminate the samples. The viscera is extracted and tested first. If the viscera is above 70 ppm then the body tissue is tested. The preparation of the crab samples takes a ½ - 1 day, depending on the number of different areas the samples are coming from and the number of crabs per area. The laboratory analyses require HPLC techniques, which take approximately 45 minutes per sample. Samples are placed on an autosampler so analyses can be run after hours/overnight to increase throughput.
4. Is 6 crab per port considered a real scientific sample? Should there be more or less collected? Should they all be from the same pot?
This is the California’s standard sample size for testing levels of domoic acid in crabs which is consistent with the protocol used by Washington’s Department of Health and Department of Fish and Wildlife. They must balance the capacity of the lab to process samples with an adequate sample size. California Sea Grant, UCSB and the CDPH have submitted a proposal for obtain funds to better evaluate sample sizes for the different species. Sampling from one or more pots in an area may be better, although since they are moving in from all around it may not matter that much. Keeping samples separated, however, if they are from different locations (e.g., front vs. backside of island; coast vs. offshore) is critical.
5. Has CDPH ever tested spot prawn or any species of shrimp?
The Food and Drug Branch of CDPH is currently working with DFW to coordinate, via fishermen, the collection of spot prawns that will be harvested in areas North of Point Arguello including HMB/SF and Monterey areas. Upon the collection and testing of spot prawns, data on DA levels in this species will be available via the CDPH website. Other species routinely tested for DA include small finfish (anchovy, sardines), and bivalve shellfish (mussels, oysters) and limited data is available for DA levels in spiny lobsters.
6. Are there any other 'certified' labs that can run crab samples so that the FDBL isn't inundated with samples?
Not in CA. There are no labs in CA certified to perform the HPLC method for DA. A commercial lab with a chemistry program could likely spin up this method, but the data could not be used for regulatory purposes.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Here's my figures for the results. The average from two locations is 32.95 ppm. That sounds good, but one red crab had 240 ppm. The other five in the sample averaged 11.4 ppm. That's the crab (and ones like him) that's going to scare the regulators into waiting longer, and honestly, if they think we need longer, I'm OK with that that. Disappointment is preferable to disaster, and I don't think that they'll let someone get sick.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A little word on the crab. As I understand it, the crab will be tested every two weeks until the domoic acid levels reach a statewide average of 60 ppm or less. They will then test weekly until the statewide average is less than 30 ppm. A second test a week later that also averages less than 30 ppm will let them open the season for sportfishermen. Commercial will likely follow a week after. Please note the bold print on statewide. They're not going to open portions of the state that are clean. It is all or nothing. Washington state was closed for four months. It looks to me like the first set of tests gave them an average of 60.58 ppm or so, including reds with the Dungeness. The second set of tests about a month later had an average of 40.72 ppm. They're testing again next week and it will be very interesting to see what the average is. It looks like, best case scenario, maybe three weeks until crab time. Reality will probably be more like Christmas crab. That's if things go really well.
    Well, look at that. Fresh numbers after I just did math. Here's the new results. I'll math it tomorrow.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Crab sampling results

    Here's the testing results as of last week. Keep in mind that two tests (or one in some cases) isn't enough to show an overall trend. Given another week of testing we might be able to make a better educated guess at an opening date. 
     The rockfish are still biting well, at least. My boys had the day off yesterday so the family went fishing together for limits by 9:00 AM. We found them in 160' of water off Bird Rock. We metered for schools of fish, then kept the boat parked over them until the fish quit biting. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

    I got a look at some of the crab testing results. The domoic acid level in the crab from the northern ports stayed the same or went up slightly while the southern ports dropped a bit. Fort Bragg was low but Bodega Bay got a little worse. The most recent collection date was 11/3, so it will be quite interesting to see the results from this weeks tests with colder water. If warmer water was to blame then we should see some better results.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The crabs got a day off today but the rockfish took a beating. There were a lot of boats working the reefs and most of them had dinner or better. The couple of boats that went out from here for bluefin did not catch but a couple were caught by some of the Bodega boats. The water was only 59º to 61º and greenish but there were quite a few spots of bait. The fish could hold a bit longer. I didn't hear of any halibut or white sea bass.

Friday, November 6, 2015

    Yes, crab season is now officially closed. Not only could eating the wrong crab kill you, but now wardens will ticket your corpse. Testing of the crab will continue and the season will reopen when the Department of Public Health and Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment agree that crabs pose no health risk. There is a hotline to call for updates, (831) 649-2883, and a website to check, CDFW website. As you may have guessed, I will be sure to post something on here when the all-clear siren sounds. The water temperature here has dropped dramatically, which is bad for halibut, sea bass and tuna, but, if it is true that the warm water caused this mess with the crabs, maybe it's good for the Dungeness. The 61º water out front is now 56º. My cousin is a commercial crabber and a pessimist, but he thinks that we may see the crabbing opened up here in the next month. Usually he's full of doom and gloom, so who knows?
     At least the rockfish don't care too much about water temps. We tried for white sea bass in the morning, then switched to rockfishing when we could find no squid and got no bites. The rockies were a bit slow until we finally found some hungry ones at about the 15th stop. We worked 100'-120' of water from the Keyholes south for limits of mostly nice browns and blacks and a few vermilion, plus four lings. There's still a lot of small mackerel out there and dropping a few live ones to the rocky bottom probably would have increased our ling take. I tried the addition of a single assist hook to the top of my metal jig yesterday and it increased my hook-up rate. It also got stuck in my thumb while a lingcod twisted on the other hook until my hook came dislodged. It was pretty uncomfortable and I think I might return to the single hook. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Emergency Crab Closure Recommended 
Commission to Meet Thursday   

Dungeness crab
Dungeness crab 
CDFW photo by C. Wilson
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a health advisory warning individuals to avoid eating rock and Dungeness crab due to the detection of high levels of domoic acid. The advisory was followed by arecommendation from the Office of Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) to the California Fish and Game Commission and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to delay the start of the Dungeness crab season and close the rock crab fishery. These actions would apply to each fishery from the Oregon border to the southern Santa Barbara County line.
The OEHHA recommendation has prompted an emergency meeting of the Commission, which will take place at 8 a.m. onThursday, Nov. 5 (agenda and meeting information). At that time, the Commission will consider voting to delay the opening of the recreational Dungeness crab fishery. The recreational Dungeness crab season is currently scheduled to startSaturday, Nov. 7.
Also based on the recommendation from OEHHA, CDFW will act on its authority to delay the start of the commercial Dungeness crab season. The commercial Dungeness crab season is currently scheduled to start Sunday, Nov. 15 in most of the state.
Similar action will be considered by the Commission and CDFW to close the recreational and commercial rock crab fisheries in the affected area. Both recreational and commercial rock crab seasons are open all year.
"These are incredibly important fisheries to our coastal economies and fresh crab is highly anticipated and widely enjoyed this time of year. Of course, delaying or closing the season is disappointing," said CDFW Marine Regional Manager Craig Shuman. "But public health and safety is our top priority."
CDFW, along with the OEHHA and CDPH, has been actively testing crabs since early September. OEHHA announced today that consumption of Dungeness and rock crabs is likely to pose a significant human health risk as a result of high levels of domoic acid. CDFW will continue to coordinate with OEHHA and CDPH to test domoic acid levels in crab along the coast to determine when the fisheries can safely be opened.
Domoic acid is a potent neurotoxin that can accumulate in shellfish, other invertebrates and sometimes fish. It causes illness and can cause death in a variety of birds and marine mammals that consume affected organisms. At low levels, domoic acid exposure can cause nausea, diarrhea and dizziness in humans. At higher levels, it can cause persistent short-term memory loss, seizures, and can in some cases be fatal.
Domoic acid is produced from some species of the marine diatom Pseudo-nitzschia. Currently, a massive toxic bloom ofPseudo-nitzschia has developed, significantly impacting marine life along California's coast. State scientists have been testing crab from eight fishing ports from Morro Bay to Crescent City, and have determined that the neurotoxin has spread throughout the fishery grounds.
Algal blooms are common, but this one is particularly large and persistent. Warmer ocean water temperatures associated with the El Niño event California is experiencing is likely a major contributing factor to the size and persistence of this bloom.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The word is in: Crab is out. For now.

CDPH Issues Warning about Dungeness and Rock Crabs Caught in Waters Along the Central and Northern California Coast 

Date: 11/3/2015 
Number: 15-082 
Contact: Anita Gore, Orville Thomas - (916) 440-7259 
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today advised consumers not to eat Dungeness and Rock crabs caught in waters between the Oregon border and the southern Santa Barbara County line, due to the detection of dangerous levels of domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin.
Recent test results have shown persistently high levels of domoic acid in Dungeness crab and Rock crab, which have been caught along the California coastline. The levels have exceeded the State’s action level for the crabs’ body meat as well as the viscera, commonly referred to as crab butter, and therefore pose a significant risk to the public if they are consumed.
CDPH in conjunction with other state agencies will continue its sampling efforts to monitor domoic acid levels in Dungeness and Rock crabs until the levels subside and no longer exceed the State’s action level of 30 ppm in the viscera and 20 ppm in the meat. Domoic acid accumulation in seafood is a natural occurrence that is related to a “bloom” of a particular single-celled plant called Pseudo-nitzschia. The conditions that support the growth of this plant are impossible to predict, and it is unknown when the levels found in crab will subside. The health advisory will be lifted once the levels are no longer above acceptable levels.
Symptoms of domoic acid poisoning can occur within 30 minutes to 24 hours after eating toxic seafood. In mild cases, symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache and dizziness. These symptoms disappear within several days. In severe cases, the victim may experience trouble breathing, confusion, disorientation, cardiovascular instability, seizures, excessive bronchial secretions, permanent loss of short-term memory (a condition known as Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning), coma or death. There have been no reported illnesses associated with this event.
To receive updated information about shellfish poisoning and quarantines, call CDPH’s toll-free Shellfish Information Line at (800) 553-4133. For additional information visit CDPH’s Natural Marine Toxins: PSP and Domoic Acid Web page.

That means all crabs, folks. So, I guess that means that means that for now, no "Deadliest Catch". Maybe some "Wicked Tuna"? All I've got are dreams.....

Monday, November 2, 2015

The official word: No word yet. Unofficially? Maybe later.

Possible Delay of Nov. 7, 2015 Recreational Dungeness Crab Season Opener

Dungeness crab 
CDFW photo by C. Juhasz
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is cooperating with other state agencies in the collection and testing of Dungeness crab for domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin produced by microscopic marine algae, to determine if eating sport-caught crab will be safe for the public when the season opens. Serious consideration is being given to delaying the recreational fishery opener on Nov. 7, 2015, but no decision has yet been made. CDFW will issue a press release immediately with more information, once a decision has been made.

Please access one of the following sources for up-to-date information concerning recreational Dungeness crab season dates and related information:
That's the official word from CDFW. Separately, unofficially, I hear that there may have been a few high readings from some of the recently tested crabs and that the season will be delayed. There are smart people meeting Tuesday and Wednesday to figure out how they're going to handle it. It sounds like if they close Dungeness they will close the reds as well. The announcement will be on Thursday. If you have reservations at the Landing for this weekend and don't want to come if there's no crabbing, we don't blame you and we are waiving the 72 hour cancellation rule. No refunds, but you can cancel at the last minute for this weekend at no penalty.