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Dungeness crab commercial fishing season delayed

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HUMBOLDT COUNTY, Calif. - The opening of the commercial dungeness crab season in areas of Mendocino, Del Norte and Humboldt Counties has been delayed due to lab tests resulting in poor crab meat, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

At the beginning of November, the director of the CDFW issued a memo delaying the opening of the season in Fish and Game Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 (Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte Counties) for a minimum of 15 days until Dec. 16.

Crab quality tests ensure that crab are filled out enough prior to harvesting and follow the testing guidelines established by the Tri-State Dungeness Crab Committee, overseen by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, according to the CDFW.

"We are trying to schedule a second round of testing to take place before Dec. 7 to determine whether the fishery can open Dec. 16 or will need to be further delayed," CDFW environmental scientist Christy Juhasz said.

The CDFW said if meat quality tests remain low, Director Charlton H. Bonham has the authority to delay the season an additional 15 days. The season cannot be delayed beyond Jan. 15 due to crab quality as mandated in section 8276.2 of the Fish and Game Code, according to the CDFW.

The fishery is currently scheduled to open at 12:01 a.m. Dec. 16. This opening will be preceded by a 64-hour gear setting period that would begin no earlier than 8:01 a.m. on Dec. 13.

"No vessel may take or land crab within Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 during the closure period," the CDFW said in a press release. "In addition, any vessel that lands crab from ocean waters outside of Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 is prohibited from participating in the crab fishery in Districts 6, 7, 8 and 9 or any other delayed opening areas in Oregon or Washington, for 30 days following the opening of those areas."

Recreational crabbing remains open statewide. There are two areas of the coast in Northern California where the California Department of Public Health advises consumers not eat the viscera (internal organs, also known as "butter" or "guts") of crabs due to elevated levels of domoic acid. These areas include Laguna Point, Mendocino County northward to Humboldt Bay North Jetty, Humboldt County, and the Klamath River mouth, Humboldt County northward to the Oregon border.

For more information on health advisories related to fisheries, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/Fishing/Ocean/Health-Advisories.

For more general information on Dungeness crab in California, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/crab.

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