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CDPH Warns Recreational Anglers to Avoid Consuming the Viscera of Dungeness Crab Caught along Parts of the Northern California Coast

Date: November 3, 2017
Number: 17-079
Contact: Corey Egel | 916.440.7259 |

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is warning recreational anglers not to consume the viscera (internal organs) of Dungeness crab caught in coastal waters in two locations between Fort Bragg and the Oregon border. This warning is due to elevated levels of domoic acid detected in the viscera of Dungeness crabs caught off the Northern California coast.

This warning is effective for recreationally caught Dungeness crabs taken from state waters:

  • North of Laguna Point, Mendocino County (39°29.400' N. lat.) to the Humboldt Bay North Jetty (40°46.150' N. lat.).
  • North of the mouth of the Klamath River, Humboldt County (41°32.500' N. lat.) to the Oregon border.

While domoic acid levels may vary, consumers should always follow these best preparation practices to avoid any inadvertent exposure to domoic acid that might be found in the crab's viscera. When whole crabs are cooked in liquid, domoic acid may leach from the viscera into the cooking liquid. Water or broth used to cook whole crabs should be discarded and not used to prepare dishes such as sauces, broths, soups or stews (for example, cioppino or gumbo), stocks, roux, dressings or dips. Cooking crabs neither decreases nor destroys the toxin in the viscera or body meat. The viscera usually contain much higher levels of domoic acid than the meat, and people are advised to discard the viscera.

The best ways to reduce risk are:

  • Remove the crab viscera and rinse out the body cavity prior to cooking, or
  • Boil or steam whole crabs, instead of frying or broiling, and discard cooking liquids.

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, cardiovascular instability, seizures, excessive bronchial secretions, permanent loss of short-term memory, coma or death.

CDPH continues to coordinate its efforts with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the fishing community to collect and test crab samples from the impacted areas until domoic acid levels have dissipated. Please consult CDFW for information about the recreational Dungeness crab season.

CDPH is also reminding consumers that advisories continue to be in place regarding certain seafood caught along the California coastline:

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 webpage or CDPH's Domoic Acid webpage, which includes domoic acid test results.

The recreational Dungeness crab season in California is scheduled to open November 4.

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