LONG BEACH — All commercial and recreational crabbing on the south coast has been closed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife due to increasing levels of the marine toxin domoic acid.

Impacted are coastal waters between the Washington/Oregon border and Point Chehalis, including the Columbia River and Willapa Bay. Harvest and possession of Dungeness crab is off limits until further notice.

“This action is a result of increasing levels of domoic acid in recent Dungeness crab samples,” Coastal Shellfish Manager Dan Ayres said in a notice to the commercial crab fleet at about 3:30 p.m. Friday. “These levels now exceed the closure criteria established by the Washington Department of Health.”

All crab gear must be removed from the area between the Washington/Oregon border and Point Chehalis by 12:01 a.m., June 10. “If extenuating circumstances make this impossible for any fisher, you can contact us to request an extension,” Ayres said.

Most of each season’s Dungeness crab are caught within the first six weeks of the season, which began Dec. 1, 2014. However, some crab boats normally continue to harvest smaller numbers of the economically important crustaceans through September.

Levels of domoic acid have been increasing in coastal waters for several weeks, Ayres said. In May, the department closed all Washington coastal beaches to razor clam digging due to high levels of the toxin.

“We’ve been closely watching toxin levels in shellfish since closing beaches for razor clamming,” Ayres said. “Domoic acid shows up more quickly in razor clams than in crabs.”

This year, statistics through March indicate the 2014-15 season will total the least poundage in a number of years. Preliminary data through March 24 show a total catch of 126,537 pounds for that month, compared to 390,000 pounds in March of the 2013-14 season and nearly 1.75 million pounds in March 2012-13. The season total as of March 24 stood at just over 7 million pounds, compared to 9.5 million pounds last season and 14 million the year before that.

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